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With the Compliments of 


The attention ot Reviewers is direaed to 

letterpress pages 1 29 to 1 46, 
dealing with "The Murrav Waters Question" 

River Rovers, 

rtie Author. 

Monti;iilh' I'liulo, 

River Rovers 

By E:. J. BRADY 

Author of "TKe Ways of Many Waters,' 

"The King's Caravan," 

"Tom Pagcfin, Pirate," "BMShlancf Ballads.' 

"Bells and Hobbles," ELto. 

George Robe:rtson and Company 


MelboMrne. Sydney, A.del8dde. and Brisbane. 



I dedics^te tKis volume to my life-long' friend, 

A candid critic and a Keen sportsman, 

w^ho imk)ued my youtKful mind 

\Arith a love of literature, 

and inspired my spirit v/ith true 

Australian sentiment. 

Melbourne, Vic, 9th July, 1911 . 


River Rovers 

The day was like a sapphire set in an emerald. 
The harbor waves broke, softly as the opening of lotus 
buds in Aidenn, on the beach before us. We heard 
the deep seas tolling on the Gap and soughing round 
South Head, as Jim Jones and I dabbled our toes in 
the sand and smoked in sensuous laze. The Marine 
Parade was beautiful, but conventional and unadven- 
turous. The glory of life in our blood set our pulses 
leaping towards wider fields. We spoke of the Bush 
and the Outer places. 

The day warmed and grew, and the wander-lust 
grew with it. 

Directly within view, tossing up and down on the 
Waters of Watson's Bay, rode Jim's i6-foot motor 

An idea came to me. I rolled over on the warm 
sand and faced Jones with a tentative proposition. 

"I'd like to take a motor boat down the Murray, 
from Albury to Adelaide," I said, "and see the 

Jim shut one eye and regarded the smoke-curls cri- 
tically with the other. 

"How far?" he asked. 

"Fifteen hundred measured miles." 


"Anyone done it in a motor boat yet?" 

"No." 1 said. "It seems to me that nobody has 
thought of it. It ought to be done, though; there are 
so few things left on earth to do except discover the 
Poles. Besides, it would be a world's record for river 
distance as far as marine motoring is concerned." 

Jim drew in more smoke. 1 could see that the 
great idea had taken mental root, and was sprouting 
pleasant tendrils of fancy. 

"Can you hx it?" he asked, presently. 

1 mentioned "The Lone Hand" magazine as making- 
it possible. 

"All right." said Jim. "lict it tixed and I'll go with 

So I went u|i-towii and saw the Editor. 

Four days later, two entliusiasls were heaving joy- 
ously on a hawser, bringing tlie boat up on the skids 
at \Vatson"s Bay for a thorough overhaul. 

We repainted her. and rechristened her "The Lone 
Hand." She was fitted with a i^j h.p. "Little Giant" 
fUL^ine, using motor spirit or benzine. This engine is 
built by the Strelinger Marine Engine Coy., of Detroit. 
Mich.. U.S.A. Her speed was nominally 61/2 knots 
in still water. With a j-knot current in the Murray. 
we reckoned we could make good going. But we did 
not take the difficulties into consideration just then. 
They presented tlicmsclves afterwards. Difficulties 
generally do. 

Then came the organisation of tlie outfit. That 
16-foot skilV was to be our travelling-home for probably 
two or three months. We were to accomplish 1500 
miles of unknown river waters in her. No motor 
boat iiad attempted to go down the Murray from 


Albury to Adelaide since the great Australian river 
began its winding course from the feet of ancient Kos- 
ciusko to the Indian Ocean. The river gods might 
not receive the audacious adventure kindly ; they might 
regard it as an invasion of sacred rights and imme- 
morial privilege. There would be rain, perhaps floods, 
obstructions, shoals, sand-bars, rocks, rapids, dangers, 
delays. So we prepared, not w^ithout pleasurable anti- 
cipation, for all visible contingencies. Sport ottered. 
X'isions of wild-duck battues flashed through the busy 
hours. Dreams of 4olb. Murray cod lightened tedious 
moments of boat-painting. 

We bought fishing-lines, spoon-baits, and reels and 
rods. I unscrewed the locks of my shot-gun, oiled 
the Winchester, and polished up the lens of the camera. 

I dissuaded Jim from bringing many unnecessary 
and awkward things, including a folding-bed and a 
crosscut saw' ; but 1 permitted him a hammer, a mon- 
key-wrench, a hand-saw, an axe, and other necessary 

We took a double pair of sculls, a mainsail, sprit 
and mast, in case of a breakdown; also a spare pro- 
peller and shaft and fittings ; a six-by-eight silk tent, 
with a fly ; a kerosene-tin bucket, with removable 
handle. Four billycans, a gridiron, frypan, enamelled 
plates and mugs, sheath knives, bags with running 
strings — to keep tea, sugar, and domestic necessities 
apart from invading ants — formed part of our cluin- 
ary outfit. The bucket we used for boiling beef — and 
the beef w^as good. 

Oilcloths and macintoshes and spare old clothes we 
laid by as a precaution against damp ground and wet 
weather. A rug and a blanket constituted our bed- 
ding. The man who goes motor boating on the 
Murray River will find a rug to lie on and a blanket 
over him a good enough bed after his da3-'s work is 
done. He will scorn the spring mattress and the 
feather pillow and go to sleep under the stars without 


feeling the loss of such effete luxuries. He will rise 
from his couch of sand or grass in the mornings, and 
take his pre-breakfast swim, and shout in the sunrise 
for sheer healthy joy of livmg. 

When we had selected and packed in convenient 
bundles all we deemed needful, we went and quarrelled 
with the N.S.W. Government Railway Department 
about the freight of our boat to All ury. Unimagina- 
tive officials pined to charge us 6d. .i mile for convey- 
ance. But we discovered that by building a crate 
around our bark we might save much coin of the 
realm. So we complied with idiotic regulations, and 
reduced the public revenue by more than 50 per cent, 
on the transaction. 

My mate accompanied his beloved boat to Albury, 
and I arrived at the border town from Melbourne. 

It was night when the express approached the Mur- 
ray, with white stars winking overhead. I craned my 
neck out of the window to view the river, which was to 
be home to me for I knew not how many weeks. But 
the train dashed over the bridge, and I merely caught 
a fleeting glint of winding water, in which the stars 
were mirrored or lost in reflected trees shadows. 

Then the highway of adventure lay behind in a still, 
mysterious night, and Jim was shaking hands on the 
long, gaslit platform, and obstructing the traffic while 
he imparted information he had acquired from various 
unreliable sources. 

At the very beginning we discovered that the popu- 
lation of the Murray banks knew nothing of the river 
beyond their immediate habitat, but they were all 
cheerfully ready to afford statements. 

The Australian has a most elementary idea of land 
distance. No two bushmen are ever agreed as to the 
length of road from point to point ; but when it comes 
to river miles, the Australian is plainly and simply a 
gorgeous liar. It is not that he wishes to mislead the 


Getting Ready for the Long Trail. 
Phtti(t. — Henry hiitg, Sytltiey 

Launching "The Lone Hand " at Albury. 
Photo. — Star Studios, Albury. 


stranger. On the contrary, he desires to cheer and 
encourage him. So he says four miles when he be- 
lieves eight, and the actual distance is sixteen. Occa- 
sionally he errs in the other direction, and doubles the 
mileage ; but on inquiry it will be found that this is 
the imported Australian, not the native product. A 
Cockney always over-estimates, and a Scotchman takes 
so long to decide that you are generally out of earshot 
when he shouts his perjury at you. 

The river was very low. There had been some 
rain in the mountains, but the two-foot fresh sent 
down from Mount Kosciusko was ahead of us, and we 
had no chance of catching up to it before it reached the 
Australian Bight. 

Albury is a pleasant old town, with a post office 
and a place where one can purchase petrol at a 40 per 
cent, advance on metropolitan prices; but its shady 
sycamore-lined streets seem to breed pessimists as 
naturally as bad wine breeds headaches. 

They came round to the hotel, although the hour 
was late, and told us that we would never get down 
the river. They said there was not enough water in 
places to float a boat drawing eight inches, and that 
the water was too deep in other places. The Murray 
was full of snags and sandbanks and gravel-beds. The 
last steamer that came up to Albury, 30 years ago, had 
to stay there, and be broken up and sold for old iron and 
firewood. No motor boat had ever gone down to 
Adelaide, and no motor boat ever would or could go. 
We would certainly lose the outfit, and probably both 
our lives as well. Hundreds of people had been 
drowned in the Murray — mostly strong swimmers. 
Old Jabez Cornfield was drowned only a week pre- 
viously. He had been a respected citizen in days gone 
by, but he took to drink, and his body was recovered 
on a snag, after being in the water for six days and 
seven hours. He was of an incredible color when re- 
trieved. He had about a hundredweight of iron tied 


to him, and a good many people thought he might have 
committed suicide. VVe had better remain in their 
fertile and coming district, they said, and take up land. 
It was less strenuous and not so risky, and the profits 
in good seasons were tremendous. In any case, we 
ought to remain for the inquest; an inquest would offer 
fine literary material, they suggested. 

W'e declined the hospitality of Albury, accompanied 
as it was by generous invitations to partake of local 
and imported beverages ; and on the afternoon of Feb- 
ruary 28, 1908, a bright, promising, sunny afternoon 
— the boat being duly launched and loaded — we pushed 
off from the bank, lined with critical spectators, and 
took the long trail. 

The river was deplorably shallow at the start, with 
hard gravel beds, over which the water raced and 
bubbled ominously. We would work cautiously over 
these, shoot suddenly into a deep, boiling whirlpool, 
and turn about with a merry-go-round motion, bow 
and stern in the current. The first stages of the jour- 
ney we found would have to be accomplished largely 
by rowing and hauling the boat over shallows. 

We acquired this interesting and useful information 
by shooting suddenly on to a gravel-bank, and ripping 
oflf our propeller. The codfish just below Albury 
know where that propeller is. Doubtless they bring 
their families and friends for miles to inspect it. It 
is a new river wonder, and useless as food, unless some 
daring old sixty-pounder takes it on when grass- 
hr^ppers and black frogs are scarce. 

Jim's remarks when the propeller went cannot be 
set down here. They were carefully and deliberately 
worded, but rather florid for publication even in a 
"Police Gazette." My companion divested himself 
of his garments, punctuating each item on the disrob- 
ing programme with expressions, some of which were 
new to me (and T have been in Northern Queensland 
and in the holds of sea-going ships). 


At the first dive he shot down-stream a good lo 
miles an hour, and brought up on a snag 60 yards 
nearer Adelaide, gashing his foot badly. He clung 
nakedly to his perch, and lifted his voice so that I 
feared the police in Albury might hear and resent him. 

I worked the boat ofif somehow anvd effected a 
rescue, and we resolved not to attempt any more diving 
in the Murray. We got many reasons afterwards for 
adhering strictly to this pious resolution — many good 
and significant reasons. 

The Murray is a very wonderful, and sometimes 
beautiful, river. Taken with the Darling it is the long- 
est in the world, and its watershed embraces a large 
section of the Australian continent. These facts 
and others are to be found in the geography books. 
But even the foreign geography books, one of 
which, English of course, mentions it as a "mountain 
torrent," do not state that it is a treacherous and erratic 
watercourse from Albury to Echuca, laying in wait for 
motor boats that it may devour them. There were 
times, along that stretch of winding waterway, when 
we almost hated and feared the river we had set our- 
selves to conquer. 

The photographs which accompany this letterpress 
give very inadequate impressions of the difficulties of 
our navigation. One can see, and the lens will record, 
the snags on the banks, and the snags which project 
from midstream and shallow ; but it was the treacher- 
ous, sly, sneaking, cowardly, submerged snag that we 
learned to dread. Some were roots and stumps of 
trees bedded firmly in the sand and mud, looking like 
black teeth waiting a prey. Thousands of these black 
teeth bristled everywhere, and we knew not where. 
Any one of them was vicious and sharp enough to rip 
the bottom out of our little craft, and leave us strug- 
gling mayhap in 20ft of whirling, eddying water, with 
the sinking of the outfit and a hard swim for life as 
the certain evils. 


Even when we could get up power on the upper 
reaches, and enliven the anxious hours with a little 
fast going, we never knew the moment we would crash 
into some hidden saw- or spear-edged water devil, and 
become bait for perch and bream. 

According to tradition, steamers occasionally 
traded the Upper Murray safely 30 years ago, 
and the river was then kept clean and navi- 
gable. But since the coming of the railway- 
builders there is practically no water traffic above 
Echuca. The stream is choked with silt and drift- 
wood and submerged timber. If a flat-bottomed 
steamer attempts the current in the direction of 
Tocumwal or Corowa in flood-time, making a dash 
for a cargo of logs or produce, she takes the risk of 
remaining tied up to the bank somewhere until the 
next flood refloats her, or she rusts and rots. 

Australian hardwood lives for 40, 50, maybe 100 
years under water, and the red-gum snags we dodged 
on the way down were firm and solid enough to please 
any enthusiastic timber merchant who was uninter- 
ested in motor boats and record river trips. 

We made our first camp about nine water-miles 
below Albury, taking the accepted average of three 
miles of water to one by road ; for the river looped and 
returned upon its course interminably for the first 300 
miles of the journey. We were dog-tired, but we 
climbed up a steep bank and surveyed the prospects. 
The sun had faded from the hilltops to the westward, 
and the land was brown and sere after dry summer 

An unpicturesque and odorous woolwash con- 
fronted us. Outside a galvanised shed two men sat 
on woolpacks smoking. One was a red-faced, plea- 
sant-looking person, and the other was Tim S'nith. I 
have met Tim Smith all over Australia. Ke wears 
moleskins or dungarees, a soft shirt, and a long beard 
generally shot with grey. He is a simple, kindly. 


obliging, cheerful soul, and you need not follow his 
yarns any further along the highways of mendacity 
than you care to go. 

Tim Smith fondled his beard, regarding us with a 
benevolent eye the while. 

"Any place to camp here?" I asked in my best bush- 
company voice. 

"Camp in the shed," said Tim, "if you like. Thir- 
teen bunks there, and me an' my mate only uses two." 

So we thankfully culled our bedding from the boat 
and found the billy, safely stowed away under every- 
thing else. Tim made a pack-horse of himself; re- 
marking at frequent intervals that he liked to oblige 
people, because some day he might want friends to do 
him a good turn. It was evident that the most of 
Tim's worldly philosophy lay in this principle — as an- 

"Where did you put the bread?" asked Jim Jones, 
rummaging among the cartridges and photographic 

A cold shudder ran down my spine. I had bought 
onions and potatoes, and canned peaches and flour, an(' 
tinned fish and everything I could think necessary, in 
Albury. Surely I hadn't forgotten bread ! 

"In the boat," I said, lying loudly. 

Jim turned over everything several times. I stood 
on the bank in the after-glow, offering counsel and 
suggestions. Some of the packages were heavy, but 
none of them was bread. 

"There's none here !" he snorted. 

"It must have gone overboard when we got out to 
drag her at the Island," I asserted. 

"Well, you'd better go and get some more," said 
Jim. "I suppose you forgot it." 

"I bought five loaves," I claimed — "five double 
loaves. Maybe they're in the tin box." 

"Considering the tin box hasn't been unroped since 


it left Sydney, I don't think they are," he replit 
sourly. "You'd better g-et some if you want any tea 

So I walked a mile inland to a German farmer 

An Indian hawker, wearing: a huge yellow turban 
stood at the cow-bail waiting for a bowl of milk ; the 
kine were in the yards, the pigs grunted within their 
smellful enclosure, and the farmer's comfortable vine- 
clad cottage, with outlying sheds and barns, made an 
effective picture ; but I only had a soul for bread. 

The farmer's wife was kind, and sold me two great 
home-made loaves and a can of milk. I trudged back 
to the river-bank, feeling like a patriarch after praver. 

Tim Smith had the billy boiled, and was fussing 
round looking like the father of the Prodigal Son. He 
opened a tin of our salmon with his jack-knife, because 
the whereabouts of the can-opener was shrouded in 
utter mystery. 

Jim Jones swore he was going to go all over that 
boat in the morning and fix things so they could be 
found when wanted. But it took a fortnight to get 
the typography of our belongings, and even then the 
gridiron was usually under the petrol when it was 
wanted, or else the frypan had malicioush^ stowed 
itself away in the blankets with the last instalment of 
fat clinging lovingly to it. 

We mealed at the woolwashers' table, and filled 
our pipes with good, honest plug, and then we 
lounged outside on woolpacks spread under the stars. 
Tim. Smith drew on his wondrous imagination, just 
as an archer might gently and lovingly pull the bow- 
string up and up, until it touched his ear. 

Tim had been everywhere, seen everything, and 
killed snakes. Not just ordinary snakes, but reptiles 
that a man might start at the tail-end at noon, and ride 
till sunset and not reach the business end of. Once, 
in Queensland, one of these fabulous snakes embedded 
its fangs in Tim'., cheek. The victim extracted a 


fang and sent it to the Museum in Sydney. We could 
go and see it when we went back. Anyone could see 
it. They kept it on view in a glass case. Tim gave 
the exact measurement of the case, and the name of 
the man who made it. He was great on details, and 
never contradicted himself. 

The Southern Cross in a shamefaced way burned 
on his right hand, the Milky Way covered itself 
with an apologetic mist, and still that mild, bearded old 
man lied on. 

"Onct," said Tim Smith, regarding the evening star 
with apparent reverence, 'T was overseer on a cattle- 
station in Monaro. It was owned by an English 
syndicate, and they went in for stud bulls. It kem 
a very cold winter, the coldest winter they ever had 
on Monaro, an' the manager — he was a young feller 
from t'other side o' Gippsland — he wrote in his report 
to head orfis, an' he told head orfis 'ow at the last 
muster we 'ad 500 head of bulls, and how, owin' to the 
extreme cold, them bulls were all gone back into the 
mountains, an' he didn't think we'd save 'arf 'em by 
the time winter was over. Well, the English syndi- 
cate got a chill, because them bulls was worth some- 
thing, each one on 'em worth more'n a 'undred anyhow, 
an' they wires back : 

"Rug bulls at once." 
When the manager got that telegram he ivas wild. 

" ' 'Ow in 'ell,' sez he, 'am I goin' to rug 500 mad 
Monaro bulls !' So he wires back — to put 'em off 

"Cannot follow instructions ; no rugs." 
But the syndicate 'ad made up their mind them valu- 
able animals 'ad to be saved at any cost, so they wires 
again : 

"Sending rugs, insist on you following instructions." 

"Weil, the young cove had a stiddy job, an' he 

didn't want to lose it. In about a week two twenty- 

'orse team loads o' bull rugs kem to hand, an' the 



manager called the hands together, an' sez : 'Boys, get 
all them bulls in an' we'll rug 'em, if it leads to a war 
between England an' Australia, an' takes till the day 
o' Giniril Jedgment to do it. I'll foller instructions, 
he sez, 'if it lands the directors in gaol.' 

"So we out after them bulls, an' we brought 'em in, 
every cow's son of 'em — but it took a week. One half- 
caste cove broke his neck over the job, an' my mate, 
'Arry Moffat, got gored in the thigh, an' was crippled 
for nigh on 12 months. We took 'em one by one, an' 
got the rugs on 'em somehow, an' when they was all 
finished, the manager sings out : 

" 'Take down the scarlet sliprails. an' let the 
blankers go!' 

"Go!" said Tim Smith, standing up, and waving 
his patriarchal beard in the beautiful starlight. "Go ! 
There was never anything on this earth went like 'em. 
Some o' the rugs was red and some was blue, an' the 
whole bush for miles an' miles was just flying streaks 
o' red bull an' blue bull. An' beller! The bellerin' 
o' them bulls was enough to turn a man's 'air white. 
Nobody ever 'card anything like it. You could 'ear 
'em for miles an' miles, tearin', an' rippin'. an' roarin', 
an' going' like mad back for the mountains. 

"Well, would yon believe ?n^," concluded Tim, "that 
when we kem to muster that stock in the Spring, we 
could only find 150 out of the mob, an' only one o' them 
'ad kept the rug on 'im, an' 'e w^as as quiet as a sheep, 
an' let us ride up to 'im, an' 'e put down 'is 'ead, an' 
sorter asked in a kinder shamefaced way to 'ave it took 
off, an' that's the gospel truth." 

The narrator sucked at his pipe. 

Presently the red-faced man asked in a quiet voice: 

"What kem o' the rest o' them bulls, Tim?" 

" 'Ow do / know?" said Tim Smith. "1 reckon it's 
time to get to bunk." 


There are joys in camp life that no city will ever 

You awaken in the morning refreshed and hungry. 
You slip down to the river in your pyjamas, and peel 
off, and plunge into water that has not come from a 
reservoir through miles of heated piping and hydraulic 
pumps. You do your breast-strokes and over-arm 
strokes as if you were after the Royal Humane 
Society's medal, and you climb out on to the bank 
dripping like a retriever, and half dry yourself, 
and get into your clothes with the appetite of a savage 
urging breakfast. 

Your black billy tea and fried steak will not give 
you indigestion, nor will your pipe of post-prandial 
tobacco affect your nerves. The blood courses through 
your veins — good, red, life-blood, wherein the white 
corpuscles do not dominate. 

To Halifax with the towns ! Avaunt effete civil- 
isation ! Pity the poor merchant going tiredly towards 
his office! Sorrow for the bank clerk at his stool! 

All living Nature pulses, throbs, respirates freely 
around you. Every breath you inhale is a joy, a plea- 
sure, a draught of wine with no headache in the heel 
of the goblet. 

Slip cartridges into the breech of your shotgun ! 
Adjust the reel of your fishing rod! Australia is a 
good country, and you are free to roam without fear 
of gamekeepers. 

Oh, Liberty, can man resign thee, 
Once having felt thy generous flame ? 

Let Lalage laugh and Ida pose. Let the World to 
its money-getting, its silly social am.bitions, its effort 
and its strife! For you to-day there is nothing but 
peace, and to-morrow can care for itself. To-morrow 
we will all be dead. 

From the brown grasses flocks of gaily-coloured 
parrots flew towards the timber, and a light wind 
lifted the thistle-down and carried it here and there. 


The river flowed slowly between its deep banks, 
keeping constant current towards that distant ocean 
bourne whither we also were bound. 

We re-freighted our blankets and cooking utensils, 
waved farewell to our over-night friends, who came 
down the bank to watch us start — the first motor boat 
they had seen. Jim gave the flywheel a professional 
twist, and "The Lone Hand" began to pitter-patter 
down the Murray. Our adventures had begun in 

Our little engine only weighed 561b., but we found 
that we could get up a speed of ten miles an hour going 
down stream ; and we also learned very early on the 
voyage that until we reached navigable water it was 
not good enough to attempt fast running. 

We acquired this fact and admitted it ; but when- 
ever we came to a reach of apparently deep water, the 
temptation to speed up was too strong, and the fly- 
wheel was generally called upon to execute its maxi- 
mum 800 revolutions a minute. 

Then Jim stood up in the stern, tiller in hand, keep- 
ing a hawk's eye on the channel ahead, watching for the 
ripples on the surface of the w^ater that told of hidden 
snags ; and I sat forward in the bow with a broken 
scull in hand sounding the depth. 

I learned to execute some graceful evolutions with 
that paddle. It had snapped off about 6ft. from the 
blade in a rapid on our first day out, and after a time 
I could swing it forward, feel the bottom, report the 
depth, and change it from port to starboard hand per- 
haps six times in a minute. 

I shouted the soundings as we went, thus: "Deep 
water!" — anything over paddle depth; "Good water!" 
— where I could just touch the bottom. "Four feet!" 
"Three!" "Two!" "Shallow water!" "Stop her!" 

Then Jim would grab the lever, and we would pro- 
bably plunge into a mudbank or a gravel-bed. Lower 
down the river these gravel-beds, on which the keel 


grated with a horrible tearing sound, gave place to 
sand-bars. The bars often spread right across the 
channel, and we would be compelled to get out — we 
never wore boots in the boat — and shove and drag her 
through to deeper water somehow. Ofttimes we spent 
an hour or more on a bar, with a hot March sun beat- 
ing down on us, living the entirely strenuous life and 
acquiring blistered legs. But it was good fun, and 
better than physical culture exercises in a gymnasium 
for the development of muscle and strength. 

Sometimes, by keeping the engine going at full 
speed, we could plough and churn a way over the sand. 
When the boat found the edge she would dip into 
deeper water like a duck, and we would yell applause 
and endearments at her. 

I blushingly confess that we learned to love that 
little engine. I have seen Jim Jones pat her like a 
mother might pat her son, or a schoolmistress her pet 
pupil ; and when she was thirsty and wanted lubricat- 
ing oil, he would give it her as a woman gives a feeding 
bottle to an infant. If she got tired, or anything 
went wrong, Jim never swore at her like some men will 
do with machines. He just brooded over her with a 
spanner, touched her tenderly here and there, eased 
down any stiffness, or tightened up some loose section, 
and coaxed her into a good humour again. 

Our electric battery was composed of dry cells, and 
we took a lot out of them. Before we reached Echuca, 
one afternoon, just when we were getting into good 
water, something went wrong. Jim didn't blame the 
engine. He said she was a thoroughly conscientious, 
strictly honest and industrious and sober engine, and 
the battery was at fault ; it wouldn't spark properly. 
Batteries never had any principles to speak of. So I 
took the paddles and kept steering-way on the ship 
while he reasoned with the battery. 

Presently Jim jumped nearly out of the boat, and 
burst into loud remarks. He had lifted the wrong 


wire, and received foLi- volts of electricity. That bat- 
tery had been waiting for him, and it got him in the 
end. You cannot afford to treat a battery with dis- 
respect. This treacherous action did not tend to in- 
crease our regard for the battery. We petted the 
engine more afterwards and made the battery so jeal- 
ous that it struck altogether, and we had to instal a 
new one. 

As we gained experience we organised for contin- 
gencies. In the event of our running full force on to 
a snag and ripping a hole in the boat, we were to both 
keep cool and try to get her into shallow water before 
she sank. If she foundered in deep water — there are 
holes in the Murray holding Soft, of dampness — and 
there was no chance of saving anything, we were to 
swim with the current, and by no means attempt to 
battle against it, until we managed to get ashore. In 
every case, as soon as she hit anything we were to 
throw ourselves forward, and so lift the stern and save 
the propeller, if possible. 

This last feat we performed fully 40 times before we 
got to Echuca, and on several occasions when we were 
running full speed. The propeller shaft was bent so 
much by two collisions that we had to take ''The Lone 
Hand" ashore to straighten it on a stump. 

The boat had a curved bow, so that when we struck 
a sunken log she would glide up on it ; then, by 
throwing ourselves quickly forward, we brought the 
stern up; the propeller executed its revolutions in air, 
and, somehow — more perhaps by the will of Provid- 
ence than our own efforts — we always got through 
without serious mishap. 

When the days were calm and sunny we could see 
the channel fairly well, pick out the places where most 
of the snags w-ere, and avoid them ; but when the wind 
blew, and the surface of the water was ruffled, we 
simply took the risk — not knowing what trouble each 
succeeding second might bring us. Looking back, I 


believe those were the pleasantest moments of all. It 
was a gamble, and we enjoyed the excitement of it. 

Mile by mile we followed the windings of Austra- 
lia's greatest river. 

A few miles beyond Albury, the hills died away 
into blue distances, and we entered the flat prairies 
of the Riverine. 

From sunrise to sunset, day by day, our way lay in 
and out of the plain. The banks of the river were richly 
garbed in green, drooping red-gums, and their reflec- 
tions made shadow-trees in the water, with spectral 
clouds and faded blue skies repeating the overhead 
beauties of the glad hours through which we speeded, 
the musical ripple of parted waters for accompaniment 
and song. 

I had my first shot at wood-duck the morning we 
left the woolwash. They were preening their mottled 
breasts on the edge of a gravel bank, and the approach 
of the motor seemed to puzzle them. We came into 
fair range before they rose. I got in right and left 
barrels of No. 2 shot, and bagged a brace, which we 
grilled over the coals for breakfast next morning, and 
carefully picked the bones. They were the forerunners 
of many a savory grill and stew. 

It may be appropriate here to go into the question 
of cuisine. We organised this also. 

I did most of the hunting; the fishing department 
fell more to my mate, who was particularly expert with 
hook and line. It was, therefore, my appointed duty 
to pluck and prepare the birds, and an occasional rabbit 
or hare, while he cleaned and cooked the fish. I wish 
to put on record a healthy man's appreciation of Mur- 
ray cod fried in the open, in a pan of clean fat, by a 
mate who knew exactly the requisite crispness and 
brownness of the fillets under treatment. I hold, 
without fear of contradiction, that a two or three 
pound cod done in that fashion, and taken with a half 
loaf of bread, and, say, a quarter pound of butter and 


two pints of coffee, is a breakfast fit for and enough for 
a prince. Although the prince might eat from a tin- 
platter and drink out of an enamelled mug, and use 
his sheath-knife without regard to etiquette, he would 
appreciate the dish. The hooking and landing of his 
fish beforehand would not detract from the pleasure. 

I have no fault to find either with black duck appro- 
priately stewed in a billycan. Of course, you first 
shoot your duck. This is not unpleasing to you if you 
possess sporting instincts. Then you sit forward in 
the boat and pluck it. If the wind is blowing, the 
feathers will collect aft in your mate's hair; but you 
can silence his protests by pointing out the absolute 
necessity for plucking a bird before cooking it. When 
you come to camp at night you singe the bird, having 
previously removed the superfluous sections, cut 
it up with a sharp bowie-knife, and put it in a billy with 
salt and pepper and sliced onions, some pieces of 
bacon, and sufhcient water, and let it stew. Next 
morning you can heat it up for breakfast, and add a 
thickening of f^our. Then dip bread in the rich, thick 
gravy, and thank Heaven for its beneficence. This 
recipe is given freely for the enlightenment of lady 

All along the River Murray, from Howlong, in New 
South Wales, to the broad South Australian reaches, 
one finds clean, white, sand-spits running out into the 
stream. We mostly chose a sand-spit for our night's 
abiding. It was softer than the tussocky bank, con- 
venient and level, and the tent pegs could be driven in 
easily. When the day's run was completed, as the 
evening shadows began to close in, "The I-one Hand" 
would turn out of the channel and make for one of 
these spits — especially if it lay handy to habitation or 
human company. 

First, the electric batteries were disconnected and a 
waterproof covering placed over the miniature machin- 
ery astern. Then the paddles were tied in pairs for 


tent-poles, pegs driven fore and aft, and the vagabond 
tent pitched — using a rope as ridge-pole. 

This became my mate's department. While he was 
fixing up our abode I built a fire and got the evening 
meal ready. Cold corned beef does not require much 
attention, but such ceremonies as the frying of bacon, 
the boiling of potatoes, and the brewing of cofifee are 
almost sacerdotal, and must be approached with rever- 

It is a joyous thing to see the smoke pillar from 
crackling eucalypti twigs and lec:ves arising to Heaven, 
and to inhale the incense of burning wood. It is good 
to lounge by the red coals after a satisfactory meal and 
smoke the pipe of peace. It is sweet to lie under the 
tent with the hurricane lamp swinging softly overhead; 
hear the river talking to the stars, hear the fish leaping 
occasionally ; hear the quack of wild ducks, the call of 
plover, and the uncouth utterances of night-birds in 
the distance. 

The boat's sail — never hoisted but once on the trip 
— was our tablecloth. When the weather grew cooler 
it became a supplementary bed covering as well. 

We would waken at dawn, tumble out into the 
freshness of the morning, build fire, cook breakfast, 
strike tent, roll up and bag the bedding, repack the 
boat, refill the petrol tank, oil and adjust the machinery, 
and resume the day's travel like giants refreshed. 

Heroic labors often awaited us ; but we studied the 
angular aspects of patience and cultivated brawn. We 
grew so hard that we jocosely struck matches on one 
another's muscles ; so steady of sight and hand that 
we could shoot ducks with the Winchester as the boat 
sped. In sooth, the Red Indian mode came so plea- 
sant and natural that I have on more than one occa- 
sion clipped a duck with the rifle, finished it with the 
shot-gun at nearer approach and retrieved the bird 
without stopping the engine. 

Luckily for the expedition, unfortunate for the 


Riverine, the journey was begun and completed in dry 
weatherl Only twice did we get heavy rain, and the 
first of those occasions was after leaving our woolwash. 
We came to camp that afternoon between grey, misty 
showers, and slept on wet ground without ill-effect. 
It was a little settlement called Redbank, on the Vic- 
torian side. Poor soil and poor people, but open- 
handed and of warm and generous hearts. They gave 
us fresh milk and invited us to share their humble fare. 
And when we would not accept their kindness they 
were almost offended. But we said we would come 
up after tea and "yarn." 

The children of gentle condition, whose evenings 
are made sweet with books and music, with theatres and 
the social intercourse of cities, cannot appreciate the 
bush significance of the word "yarn." A yarn in the 
remote Outback is the equivalent for a hundred enjoy- 
ments of the town. Where there are no pianos, no 
violins, not, mayhap, even an accordion, a banjo, or a 
concertina, under the bark roofs, under the hot iron 
roofs, under the roofs of thatch and canvas, under the 
open stars, when the day's labor or the day's march is 
done, they will sit and "yarn." 

This makes the stranger doubly welcome. He has 
come from other places ; he has new tales to tell. He 
in turn can be told old local lies and incidents that 
have staled in the ears of local audiences. He can be 
made the victim of ancient jests. 

The rain upon the iron roof rose and fell through 
many octaves in the scale of sound as we yarned. 

The mother of the household, her hair whitened by 
rough years of Australian pioneering life, sat by the 
fireplace, her two eldest sons on the cretonne-covered 
sofa, her husband with his feet up on a chair and his 
back to the wall. The indispensable sewing machine, 
under the window, was noiseless for once. The paper- 
covered scrim linings of the room bulged to and fro as 
the winfl found inward passage through the cracks in 


the slabs. A kerosene lamp shed uncertain light over 
this homely interior. 

The old woman recounted experiences of forty 
years. As a girl she had trekked overland from South 
Australia with her people. She had married, toiled, 
borne children, known the vicissitudes of seasons and 
the vagaries of Nature ; but in all those years she had 
only twice beheld the wonders of a city, and each 
simple impression of city life and city ways was fresh 
in her mind. 

When we came to talk of the river — the dark, in- 
scrutable, serpentine river, flowing by in the night 
beyond — she shook her head, sadly. The river had 
claimed her first-born child. It was just a common 
little bush incident, tragic, mournfully frequent. Ten 
years before, a young man in the prime of life and 
strength had gone out in the grey light to rescue stock 
from a rising flood and had returned no more. Months 
afterwards the river gave up his bones. They were 
earthed in the high ground beyond — and life and the 
river still rolled on. 

The old woman by the fireplace put her apron to 
her eyes, the man with his back to the wall coughed 
unsteadily, and the brothers on the sofa shifted their 
feet. We led the conversation gently into other chan- 
nels, and the curtain dropped again upon that passing 
vista of human loss and human grief. 

We set out for Howlong on a sunlit Sunday morn- 
ing. The river purled innocently around clear gravel, 
beds, and slipped softly over the naked feet of over- 
hanging trees. It was all coo and kiss in the rising 
sun; but before night fell we had learned once more 
that our Murray was cat-like in character, with hidden 
claws. Having negotiated a tedious seven-mile bend, 
which brought us back a few hundred yards away from 
where we started, "The Lone Hand" ran into a series 
of serrated difficulties. 


In places the current poured rapidly; those 
places we usually found full of snags and submerged 
or half-submerged logs. We entered an ugly-looking 
channel, where disturbed waters boiled and hissed. Jim 
Jones, a 12-stone athlete, stood aft at the tiller, eyeing 
the prospect anxiously. Every now and then he would 
pull back the lever, and regulate the "mixture" down to 
half speed. Very often he stopped the engine alto- 
gether, and carefully piloted the little craft through 
dangerous intricacies, sculling with his face to the bow. 
We were down to half speed, with a current of about 
four miles an hour under us, when we went crash on 
to a submerged log. The impetus was just suflficient 
to bring her half way over, and there she hung with the 
water swirling round her. 

"Sit still !'' roared James. "Sit hyphenated still !" 

I sat. 

"What's to l)e done?'' 1 asked, humblv. " Shall I 
peel of??" 

"What for?" he asked. 

"I can get out and swim, and push her oiif," I ven- 

Jim looked at me with pity and contempt. 

"How long do you think you'd swim in that cur- 
rent?'' he asked. "Look at it!" 

I looked. 

It was frothing round the roots of projecting 
stumps, yapping at the heels of the logs, and snarling 
and snapping at everything as it shot by. 

On reflection, I concluded that it was better to 
remain where I was u'ltil actually compelled to enter 
that maelstrom. 

After about an hour and a half's anxiety and hard, 
careful work, w^c dodged ar,d coaxed "The Lone Hand" 
into clearer water without losing our propeller. 

They had never seen a motor boat along that part 
of the river before, and Ihe sparse population ran down 
to the waterside when they heard us coming. Several 

The Calf comes down for Water— Upper Murray Settlement. 


Hell's Gate. A Bad Place for Navisation. 


horsemen followed for quite a distance along the bank, 
and shouted encouragement to us. A charming young 
lady and her brother were angling on the bank. They 
invited us ashore, and fed us on grapes. I had some 
difficulty in getting Jones to leave this place. 

About midday, as we rounded a wooded bend, a 
be-whiskered gentleman, in a state of apparent excite- 
ment, appeared on the bank, and waved us to stop. 
"Where are you goin' with that boat?" he shouted. 
"Adelaide," replied Jones, laconically, as "The Lone 
Hand's" bow nosed the soft mud of the river margin, 
and the noise of the motor ceased. 

"Y' can't! Y' can't!" yelled the stranger. "You'll 
never get over the next corner." 

"What's the next corner?" we asked. 
"Hell's Gates," said the man of hair, "they calls 
it. Last cove tried to get through was drowned, an' 
his body ain't recovered yet!" 

I looked at Jim, and he looked at me. 
"What is it like?" we queried. 

"Awful !" said the man. "Awful ! All snags, an' 
the current's like a mill-race. You'll never do it." 

"We've got to do it," I said. "We can't go back 
now. All the people who dislike us would aim the 
finger of scorn and fire rude, sarcastic remarks. We 
must get through — or drown. Our friends will bury 
us decently. Go ahead !" 

"Orright, orright," said the pessimist on the bank. 
"But I've warned ye! I've warned ye!" 

"That's right," I replied, "but can you give us 
any directions?" 

"Well," he said, "if you will tackle it, keep on the 
New South side till you get half way, where there's a 
big log across the stream. If you get over that, shoot 
straight across for the Victorian bank, and then turn 
into the channel ; but you'll never do it — never." 

We thanked the melancholy person — he was a rab- 


biter — and approached Hell's Gates, not without some 

It was a weird-looking proposition. The river 
appeared, at first glance, to end there as far as navi- 
gation was concerned. Fallen trees and snags had 
seemingly blocked up a narrow waterway, which 
swirled down between high banks. How to overcome 
this next 500 yards of our journey became an imme- 
diate problem. 

We hauled into the bank, surve3'ed the prospect, 
took counsel, and laid down a plan of attack. A shoot 
of about 100 yards on the New South Wales side 
brought us to the fallen tree. Luckily there was just 
room under the log, close against the bank, to allow 
the skiff through, and by flattening ourselves in the 
boat we achieved this. We ran into the bank and got 
breath. I made Jim go down the log and hold the boat 
while I snapped her, but the picture was a disappoint- 
ment. It conveys no idea of the actualities. Instead 
of a Satanic strip of difficulties, the photograph ex- 
presses a rather pleasant-looking picnic place resting 
in midday calm. Yet Mur.ay voyageurs and old river 
captains who negotiated it 30 years ago still speak of 
"Hell's Gates" with serious blasphemy. 

The next performance we were called upon to 
execute was to "shoot" "The Lone Hand" over to the 
opposite bank, across current, avoiding, if we could, 
the obstructions of the passage; turn in the swirl a 
few yards from the Victorian side, and dart through a 
network of snags into the clearer water down-stream. 

Jim put the engine half speed, and I sat forrard, 
using the broken paddle to port or starboard, as the 
steersman ordered, and so we made one of our most 
exciting dashes. 

The river yelled and boiled ; snags snapped at us 
with malignant teeth. We hit once, but the force of 
the current hurled us round. The boat completed a 
flying circle, leaped a submerged log, and shot out into 


the broad water like a switch-back car. It was ex- 
hilarating work. 

We arrived at Howlong that blue autumn after- 
noon, feeling that we had earned our night's rest. The 
arrival of "The Lone Hand" made quite an excitement. 
We camped near the bridge, and knots of curious 
country people squatted on the banks and discussed 
the novelty. One man argued loudly that the skiff 
was run by clockwork, and another contended that she 
went on kerosene. On the outskirts of the group 
stood a little, stout, sad-eyed man. 

I learned presently that he was a travelling 
photographer. He had only a few weeks previously 
launched a flat-bottomed boat at Albury. This boat 
he had fitted up on a small scale as a living and 
developing room, and he had a fair-sized tent for a 
studio. All his ready money, he said, had gone into 
the venture. Taking his cameras and stock of nega- 
tives aboard, he had set out, thinking to work his way 
down the Murray to the sea. From the very first 
hour of the voyage he had been in difficulties, which 
culminated in a capsize at "Hell's Gate." Camera, 
outfit, negatives, and stock-in-trade had gone to the bot- 
tom of the ^Murray, and the voyageur himself was swept 
down-stream — about a mile he reckoned — and nearly 
drowned. Someone on the bank saw him disappear, 
and sent word into Howlong. The police came out 
and started dragging operations. Meanwhile, ihe 
"corpse" had found its way to a farm house, had been 
revived with the wine of the country, and was sleeping 
off its effects when discovered. The police were quite 
hurt when they heard of it. In fact, our friend said 
the sergeant seemed so cut up that he was almost sorry 
he had not been drowned. 

He was an interesting little man, that photographer 
— a wandering Welshman, who had been floating round 
the world all his life. He had travelled with a house 
on wheels through the Alidland Counties, caravaned 


through the United States, spent some years in South 
America, and drifted over Australia. He was going 
grape-picking next day, in order to earn enough money 
to get a fresh start in life. This at 53 ! There is a 
lot of stolid stoicism to be found in the Bush — an 
heroic acceptance of the "bludgeonings of Fate," which 
asks no limelight and seeks no applause. Men and 
women of the West face the footlights of tragedy daily 
in a hundred star parts, where there are no approving 
audiences to shout encouragement and offer wreaths or 
bouquets. They see the results of a season's labor 
swept away in an hour by floods, and do not moan. 
They face cruel droughts without flinching, w-atch their 
starving stock dying round them, see the tanks and 
dams and watercourses go dry, see the red sand whirled 
across sun-scorched plains by the winds of Hell, eat 
hard fare amid the hardest conditions, and remain still 
cheerful, resolute, and strong. Cheers for the nation- 
builders of the backblocks — hard and lean and brown ! 

A Customs oflicer came down to the tent with a can 
of fresh milk after tea, and w^e filled pipes and yarned 
by the camp fire. Since Federation the border Cus- 
toms officials have had a reasonably quiet time. Their 
duties consist chiefly in keeping tally of the dutiable 
goods passing across the river, in order that each State 
mav receive its rightful proportion of credit from the 
Federal Government. But in days gone by. when 
Victoria faced Freetrade New South Wales with a high 
Protective tariff across the Murrav. the Customs stood 
high in the plane of economic importance. Much 
smuggling was done, and the foundations of several 
respectable fortunes laid in the border towns in those 

After New South \\'^ales passed its first Chinese 
Exclusion Act, the sneaking of Chinamen across the 
river was a lucrative business. Down at Tocumwal 
T heard weird stories from a cut-throat who had once 

Settlers on the Upper Murray 

The " Lone Hand" at Howlong. 


followed the profession of unlawful ferryman to Asia. 
Ostensibly he was engaged in fishing, but he had occu- 
pied many a dark night in sneaking pig-tailed undesir- 
ables over the water. Altogether he thought he had 
drowned seven Chinamen, but it might have been nine. 
He had received from three to five pounds a head from 
his fares, and the trade was thoroughly organised. But 
another gentleman started in secret opposition to him. 
He was no good, that other man. He would arrange 
to smuggle a cargo of Mongolian at cut rates — a pound 
a head — and when he got his yellow passengers in mid- 
stream he would demand another pound a head all 
round. He would demand it quietly, but insistently, 
with a spanner or a tomahawk in his hand, and the 
passengers dared not lift their voices in protest. After 
a time this rascal got to colloguing with the police^ and 
fell to delivering his misguided victims at some place 
on the bank where they would be promptly seized by 
the authorities in waiting. Such perfidy, my cut- 
throat explained, could not go long unptmished by the 
justice of Heaven. The offender was found one morn- 
ing in a bloated condition on a snag seven or eight 
miles below Albury. There were several knife wounds 
in the body, and it was apparent that the opposition 
had not died an altogether peaceable death. 

The smuggling of prohibited stock has also been 
a lucrative business on the Murray, but of late the cold, 
unimaginative hand of law and order has lain heavily 
upon the land. A certain amount of sheep-stealing is 
still incidental to local conditions, and illicit distillation 
is carried on in some places, but the years of pictures- 
que criminality are buried in a more adventurous 
pioneering past. 

They were bridge-building at Howlong. One span 
of the bridge had been eaten through by white ants, 
and a benevolent public exchequer had been called 
upon to provide funds for a new structure. It was 
pleasant to see the bridge-builders turning up to work 


in, the early autumn morning — rolling out of their tents 
and camps, and drawing bucketsful of water from the 
Murray for bath or billy ; to see the blue wreaths 
ascending from the fires ; inhale the odors of frizzling 
steak and chops, of tobacco smoke and wood smoke; 
hear the clinking of hammers on iron, the screwing of 
bolts, the grating of drills, the squeal of the circular 
saw. I went over and stood beside a worker in dun- 
garees, who was feeding firewood into the furnace of a 
horizontal engine, and smoked and said nothing — I felt 
so good. 

We got as far as the X.S.W. Government Viticul- 
ture Station that morning. I found in Mr. White, the 
director, an old personal friend, whom I had not met 
for over ten years. The Agricultural Department has 
70 acres under cultivation here. It was my first lesson 
in irrigation, and it opened my eyes to possibilities. 
Outside the fence spread a dry and apparently arid 
plain. Xot a blade of green grass brightened that end- 
less w2ste; not a flowering plant, not a strip of herb- 
age to "maxk the desert from the sown." Within the 
fence, where science had been yoked to the car of pro- 
gressive agriculture, there was no desert, but a fertile 
oasis burning like an emerald on the dry breasts of 

This experimental farm has been instituted for the 
cultivation of phylloxera-resisting vine-stocks. I 
thought instinctively of that lost Norse colony in 
Greenland, which, centuries before Columbus, sent its 
beaked ships down the New England Coast and left 
material for Longfellow's "Skeleton in Armour." They 
saw the woods of Maine, and, going ashore, fed grate- 
fully on the wild grapes and called the land Vinland. 
Now this original grape stock was being cultivated at 
Howlong, and on its disease-defying stems Mr. W'hite 
and his assistants were grafting varieties of grapes 
from all over the earth, that Australian vignerons 
might overcome phylloxera. 






Cool grape-arbors surrounded the director's home- 
stead. He plucked nectarines of fabulous size from 
the trees in the orchard, culled tomatoes, cut luscious 
grapes enough to fill a sugar-bag, detached a huge 
watermelon, and set me back to the boat an enthusias- 
tic advocate of irrigation. 

"Where have you been?" asked Jones, as I appeared 
over the edge of the bank, laden like a camel. 

"To the Promised Land," I replied. "Get a knife 
'till I cut the throat of this aggressive watermelon." 
We buried ourselves in that melon. It was a hot, 
thirsty day and — we buried ourselves in that melon. 

The grapes — they were of the choicest kinds, mus- 
catel, black ambro and black prince — lasted as far 
as Corowa, and below Corowa I went ashore to a vine- 
yard, and bought another bucketful of the best for a 
shilling, and these lasted until we were tired of eating 
grapes. Australia is a good country to live in, if 
literary people and politicians would only recognise it. 

That afternoon we met our first stretch of good 
water, and innocently imagined the difficulties of navi- 
gation were over. We made fully two hours' run 
without stopping the motor or striking anything, and 
we told one another gleefully that the worst had been 

It was Paddy Duffy who leaned over a high bank 
in the gloaming and asked us if we meant to camp there 
that night. When we said we would, Paddy appeared 
to take it as a personal favor to himself. 

This six-foot Celt held charge of the pumping- 
station that supplied the Victorian town of Rutherglen 
with water — miles away. 

"You'll pitch no tent here to-night!" said Paddy, 
viewing our camping preparations with disfavor. 
"There's a bed at the house for ye." 

We argued the point until he grew dangerous, and 
compromised by accepting the best family mattress. 


Nothing short of attempted homicide would have de- 
feated Duffy's hospitable desires. 

Shallows and snags, with occasional reaches of fair 
water, enlivened the approach to Corowa. Here 
direct railway communication with Sydney ends. From 
Corowa to the South Australian border the New South 
Wales side of the Murray is cut oft from the capital. 
But Victoria, with the enterprise of the poorer brother, 
has already stretched out seven fingers of railway to 
clutch the fatness of the Riverine, and intends ulti- 
mately to place both hands upon her prize. Corowa 
lies in a bend of the Murray, like a fair girl's head in 
the curve of her lover's arm. We made an impromptu 
toilet under the shade of a red-gum, and ad^-anccd upon 
the town. With characteristic Australian friendliness 
the town received us warmly. News of the expedi- 
tion had preceded us, and the inhabitants, being of a 
sporting character, held out the glad hand. The 
Corowa "Chronicle" seized us and conveyed us to the 
principal hotel for lunch. Prosperous townsmen 
placed vehicles at our disposal ; fair ladies smiled upon 
us, people pointed us out in the street — we were in 
danger of being famous. They said we would have 
good river now for the rest of the journey; we had got 
over the worst, and we should stay in Corowa a few 
days and look around their golden land of grape and 
grain. We should view the vineyards and the wheat- 
fields; there was a lagoon out about 15 miles fairly 
black with ducks and teal, to say nothing of the fishing, 
which was admittedly the best on the Murray from 
Albury to the sea. Jones showed signs of wavering, 
so I took him aside and spoke severely. I pointed out 
that there were 1400 miles of river yet before us, and 
that if we began lotus-eating at Corowa we would pro- 
bably be eating the bread of repentance at Koondrook. 
I thought of old Jason's ruse, and suggested that we 
ought to go to the chemist and get some cotton-wool 
to put in our ears, so that we might not hear the siren 


songs of Corowa. I spoke of St. Anthony and other 
notorious people. I pointed out how Alexander had 
marched over Asia, just because he kept his objective 
in view. But Jim had me there. He retorted that 
after Alick completed his great trek, he stalked round 
the streets of Athens attired in the family tablecloth 
and wailed because the wine of Fame would no longer 
go to his head. 

This made me desperate — I was beginning to 
weaken myself. I spoke excitedly of Hannibal and 
Cassar, and Napoleon, and the Book of Common 
Prayer. I said the eyes of all Australia were uj^on us, 
apart from the hard commercial gaze of our proprie- 
tary, and we must go on. 

Jim shook his head, sadly. 

"It's no use," he cried, "you can't get away from 
them. They'll use force." 

"Then let us sneak out," I suggested. 

So we put up a ruse on those good people. We 
pretended the boat was leaking, and brought her round 
to the rowing-shed for an overhaul — and after fixing 
the propeller and buying our groceries and meat and 
things by stealth, we slipped discourteously away from 
the town in the late afternoon without saying good- 
bye. I trust Corowa will forgive us now. 

I am firmly convinced that if we had stayed over- 
night in that delightful, hospitable place, we would be 
there yet. 

We petrolled secretly down seven miles of good 
river, with green vineyards and red wheatfields on 
either side, and came to anchor for the night. There 
was a great round of corned beef in the boat, and the 
boiling of this in the kerosene tin gave us an evening's 
occupation. An enlightened aboriginal paid us a 
visit, and imparted useful information on the question 
of bait. Cod-fishing in the Murray is not a mere 
matter of sport. From Albury to Lake Alexandrina 
the river oflfers treasure to hundreds of professional 


fishermen. All the way down one sees along the 
banks thousands of stakes, to \vhich lines have been 
attached. Every day we passed anglers of all char- 
acters. Men, women, and children engage in the 
always pleasant, and ofttime profitable, occupation 
of catching the fatted cod and perch and bream. Abori- 
gines and half-castes from the mission stations, town 
residents, country people, visitors, tourists, travellers, 
and whalers squatted or lounged on the riverside 
watching floats and tending lines. Between Tocum- 
wal and Echuca we found aboriginal fishing camps 
every few miles. These people lead a gentle, 
nomadic life, moving slowly from place to place with 
their canoes and traps and general outfit. 

Sometimes the camp was a gunyah of boughs, 
sometimes a few sheets of bark or a blanket, some- 
times a tent and lean-to. The native seems to favor 
the hand and set line rather than the drum-net, which 
forms part of most Murray whalers' travelling furni- 
ture. Usually the fisherman attaches a bell to the 
stake on which his line is tied. Often at night we 
would hear these bells tinkling, and know that a big 
fish was hooked ; or panting along we would see a 
stake violently agitated. Out of kindness to the fish, 
once or twice we unhooked it. and it fell into the bos.t 
overcome with gratitude. 

After a few days on the Murray we learned how 
best to provide ourselves with delicious fish break- 
fasts. We would wade out on the shallow reefs, 
and get a bag of mussels. Then at night, after 
tea, we baited our lines and sat smoking in 
the starlight waiting for bites. It is a pleasant 
thing to haul in a lolb. Murray cod. I have often, 
with perhaps one cast of the line, caught a ten- 
pounder while Jim was cutting the tent-pegs or getting 
the bedding out of the boat. 

No one disputes the merits of Murray cod ; it is one 
of the finest fishes in Australia. The great river sends 



down its wealth daily to Melbourne and Sydney, 
and helps to feed settlement and town. Occa- 
sionally the cod — which is really a perch — attains a 
weight of 8olb., but over 2olb. the flesh is coarse and 
meaty. The 61b. cod is your true gourmet's size. The 
bigger fish are often kept on a tether, and fed until 
opportunity offers to send them to market. The 
fishermen secure them to the bank by a cord tied 
through a slit in the upper lip, a rather cruel method, 
and give them meat or rabbit entrails to keep them 
in good condition. In certain places and at certain 
times the cod will take any bait with avidity. The 
angler is successful with mussels, worms, frogs, 
shrimps, raw meat, even a red rag. The breast of a 
cockatoo is said to be peculiarly acceptable, and latterly 
the spoon bait and spinner have come into use, parti- 
cularly for lagoon-fishing. I caught good fish below 
the junction of the Darling with the spoon baitj but 
in the upper reaches of the Murray it brought no 
results. Down in the wide water within the South 
Australian border several small steamers are engaged 
in the fishing industry ; they run their catches into 
Adelaide at intervals. The fish attain their greatest 
size in the Lower Darling and Murray. 

The Ovens River, which has its source in the Vic- 
torian Alps, empties into the Murray by the starved- 
looking hamlet of Bundalong, half-way between 
Corowa and Yarrawonga. From its cradle — ^where 
the mountains of God are hurled up to morning — to 
where it pays toll to the Overlord of Waters, it runs 
through much impressive country. We found this 
dark-looking tributary of the Murray just at sunset on 
a windy afternoon, and cast about for a camp. A hut, 
constructed entirely of sacking nailed on a rude frame- 
work of saplings, sheltered us that night. The hut 
had been built and occupied by a bullock-driver and 
his wife. It consisted of two little rooms, with earthen 
floors, a case for a dining-table, and boxes for chairs. 


The kitchen cupboard was also a case, and the toilet- 
table in the bedroom still bore the lettering of a well- 
known brand of schnapps. Some plants in kerosene 
tins hinted of cesthetic aspirations. 

Aninquisitiveyouth of 15 turned up at the camp from 
somewhere out of the darkness, and wanted to know 
all about motor boats. He inquired if we were sleeper- 
cutters. Sleeper-cutting was the industry of the place. 
This child of the bush was himself earning nearly £2 
a week "squaring" for the cutters. A self-possessed 
youth, who was learning early in life the virtue of labor 
and the value of money, he entertained us with infor- 
mation about Australian timbers, the market prices 
of railway sleepers, and the conditions of bush labor 
generally. Presently a settler and his wife appeared 
out of the night, and invited us over to supper. They 
were simple, homely people, but they set out their 
humble cake and wine and a plate of fruit with the 
grace and hospitality of an Arab household. Cultiva- 
tion that year had been a failure in the district, and 
the settlers were ekeing out a livelihood by sleeper- 
cutting, rabbiting, road-making, or whatever offered. 
The settler cherished pleasant recollections of the last 
flood, when he and his wife had gone out with sticks 
and killed hundreds of rabbits in an hour, and made 
good money out of the pelts. It was great fun, they 
said, rowing their boat about from log to log, on which 
the bunnies were clustered, and filling it with dead 

It has come to be recognised in Australia that the 
rabbit is not altogether a curse. Along the Murray I 
found scores of people making a living by rabbit-trap- 
ping. Some of the queerest characters on the river 
are to be discovered among the ranks of the profes- 
sional rabbiters. Many whalers follow this occupa- 
tion, working up or down stream in their flat-bottomed 
boats, loaded with spring traps and necessary para- 
phernalia for snaring the nimble rabbit. Skins are 


a current article of barter at the stores and on the 
trading steamers, and, despite the low prices of latter 
years, a fair living can be made when the animals are 
plentiful, and at least a few shillings for tucker in most 

As an item of food the rabbit is not looked upon 
with general favor by the bush population. In the 
first place, the dish is too plentiful, too easily procured. 
If pate de foie gras could be on anybody's plate, every- 
body would soon be tired of it. Where a settler can 
go out and fill a cart with rabbits in an hour or so, 
rabbit does not appeal to him — he much prefers corned 
beef. I have had twelve consecutive meals of corned 
beef, and, if necessary, I could have surmounted a 
thirteenth, but no human being could possibly be 
expected to eat twelve consecutive meals of rabbit. 
The Australian aboriginal despises rabbit as food. He 
will live and thrive on the rank flesh of opossum, his 
natural indigenous sustenance, but grows thin and 
miserable and almost pale on the imported substitute. 
This fact, Mr. James, of the Mission Station at 
Barman, emphasised, when I asked him why the Mur- 
ray River aborigines did not eat more rabbit. It is a 
consideration for scientists. 

A chill wind ruffled the surface of the water, and 
made the detection of snags more difficult as we set 
out for Yarrawonga. The country had now become 
universally flat and monotonous. A great plain, 
broken by clumps of timber, met us wherever we went 
ashore to survey the land. Hour after hour we drove 
our little craft down between high, grey banks. Hour 
by hour the vibration of the engine continued. "Burr- 
burr-burr," sang the flywheel ; "pit-pit-pit-pitter-pit," 
cried the exhaust as we sped on. Flocks of white 
cockatoos and pink galahs rose screaming from the 
timber, blue cranes flapped away lazily, and the white- 
breasted grebe and smellful black shag fled at our 


approach. But sandbars and snags continued to 
enliven the passage. 

Presently Jones put his hand on the cylinder, with- 
drew it quickly, and stopped the engine. 

"What's the matter?" I asked, from my place 

"Run hot," he said. 
. "What's to do about it?" 

"Dunno," replied Jim. "Get her ashore first and 

So we chose a sloping sand-spit, and hauled up 
"The Lone Hand," stern first. The chief engineer 
went to work with a monkey wrench, and used 

I stood by, obeying orders. I will swear that I 
put the disintegrated parts just where I was told to, 
and it zvas Jones who mixed them. Otherwise, how 
could the set-screw for the propeller get confused with 
the contact piece, or whatever it was? I ask any 
experienced motorist to explain this ; it is beyond me. 

I offered advice, but Jim begged me, for Heaven's 
sake, to take the gun and go inland and shoot a cocka- 
too or an emu or anything. He said he didn't care if 
I went and gunned a shire councillor as long as I didn't 
shoot him sitting. He made remarks about poets and 
writers which the bitterest and most disappointed 
critic would be ashamed to utter.. 

I was hurt. I went and sat under a tree some 
yards away, and told disrespectful stories about motor 
engines to the whole wide world in a loud voice, until 
Jones could bear it no longer. 

He came over, pulled out his pipe, filled and lit it in 
silence, and then said solemnly : 

"Do you know a set-screw from a cylinder-ring?" 

"Never mind." I replied. "Do you know a trochee 
from an iambic?" 

"No," he said. 

"Or a dactyl from a hexameter?" 


"No, I don't; but I suppose you think you know 
what's the matter with the engine?" 

"I do," I said. 


"It won't go !" 

"Ah!" said Jones, "and why won't it go?" 

"Ask a policeman," I replied, facetiously. 

"No," said Jim, in a cold, chilled-steel voice, "the 
reason the engine won't go is because you have been 
singing to it. That's one reason. The other is 
because there is sand and gravel in the valve of the 
pump. If you will only" — and here his words fell like 
hail on a hot iron roof — "if you will only go away into 
the bush and photograph yourself in absolute silence, 
I will detach the pump and remove the gravel. Will 
you go?" 

I saw that it was no use arguing with a motor man, 
so I went away shooting for about an hour, and when I 
came back the boat was afloat. He was sitting in it 
fishing, and he wore a serene smile. 

Further words were unnecessary. I laid two fat 
black duck on the gunwale by way of a peace offering, 
and we proceeded. That was the nearest approach to 
a row we had on the trip. 

It was a lonely, irritating strip of country, and when 
we saw the galvanised iron roof of a dwelling above 
the bank, I went ashore with a billycan to buy milk 
and make inquiries. No yelp of dogs heralded my 
approach : no smoke curled from the chimney of the 
place; no gruff bush voice answered my inquiry of 
"Anybody home?" 

Bare, reddish earth lay within the fence of the 
homestead; cold ashes spread before the door of an 
open-air oven at the rear. The voices of children, the 
scream of the domestic parrot, the cackle of fowls were 
absent. ( knocked on the back door — no answer; I 
went rouT'd to the front and called — still no answer. 
Then I sreaked on to the verandah, and looked through 


the uncurtained glass of the windows. The rooms 
were empty and bare — the homestead had been 

The bush offers no more desolate picture than this. 
Miles upon miles of plain spread away from the river 
— untenanted, soundless, lifeless, and drear. Who were 
these people, and why had they gone aw^ay? Had 
they put up some unknown, unrecorded struggle 
against the forces of Nature, and been defeated? Had 
disaster found them?- Had the woman died or the 
man been stricken down? Here in the burning sun- 
light lay the shell that had held domestic hopes and 
effort. Once someone had made a garden here. A 
garden ! Think of what a garden stands for in the 
scheme of life! The laying-out of the little conven- 
tional walks, the planting of the familiar flowers ; the 
appointed plots, the seed beds; the companionship, the 
interest^love, and a garden. 

Of all the garden there remained only an oleander 
tree. It stood by the dilapidated fence in full bloom. 
Poisonous are the flowers of the oleander tree, as 
every horticulturist knows. The bees will not touch 
them. A strong, dangerous perfume is diffused from 
their pink petals. I gathered a bunch of these flowers, 
breaking the branches in a spirit of strange, wicked 
reverence, and returned to the boat, with a feeling of 
relief. It seemed to me as if Death had suddenly 
appeared and pointed a bony forefinger at the house, 
and Life and Laughter were no more. 

Yarrawonga occurred late on a March afternoon. 
It was a typically-correct Victorian town, and, some- 
how, did not appeal to us. The only object of real 
interest that presented itself was an old traveller on 
the reserve, who had found a unique camp in a big, 
upstanding tree. Unremembered years before, the 
natives had ripped a strip of bark from this tree for a 


canoe. There was a hollow in the butt, and the old 
fellow had made himself a hard, narrow bunk with a 
couple of condemned railway sleepers. On this his 
blankets were spread, and here he dwelt rent-free and 
safe from the weather. A piece of sacking covered 
the aperture at night. His kitchen knew no roof, and 
he lived — as he lived. We had a long, friendly yarn. 
He was a rare, grizzled old battler, and he told me 
that he had camped in that very same tree twenty-five 
years before. He had "whaled" the river for over 
thirty years, but the rheumatics had got into his right 
leg, and his swagging days were over. He rolled up 
his trousers and showed his shanks. Like most 
invalids, his mind was centred on his malady. One 
leg was quite withered by Heaven knows how many 
hours of lonely pain. The other, he said, "was as 
good as new." Could I suggest anything that would 
do him good? He had tried liniments and pills and 
various remedies, including the carrying of a raw 
potato in his pocket. I looked at the poor, grey old 
beggar, and suggested the hospital. 

"No," he said, he was "not going into any blanky 
hospital — not yet. When a man went into hospital 
he went there to die." He was "worth a dozen dead 
'uns any day." 

"How long have you been camping in this tree?" I 

"Since December," he replied. "I took real bad 
about Christmas, an' couldn't get any further." 

He didn't ask for any silver, and he didn't crave 
tobacco. I went away with the impression that there 
was a lot of hard grit in this crude, incidental character 
of the Australian bush, this soldier of the every-day. 
I have seen a suburban philosopher — a follower of 
Immanuel Kant — with the toothache, and he might 
have taken a lesson in fortitude from the tree-dweller 
of Yarrawonga with a withered leg. 


Yarrawonga is without historical significance. It 
is an inglorious town, with shade trees and brick pave- 
ments. It is blandly agricultural and bovine, and dull. 

We left the place hurriedly, lest we might petrify 
there; camped below it, and grilled a steak in the 
golden twilight, on a nice fire of red coals. We said we 
would stay over for a day or two at Tocumwal. 

Next night found us at Boomanoomanah station, 
one of the finest squattages along the Murray on the 
New South Wales side. There are 10,000 acres of 
good land along the river bank suitable for closer 
settlement. The whole station area finds a living for 
thirty people where 1000 might dwell in comfort. 

The Murray squatter is, on the whole, an uncivil 
creature, with, necessarily, honorable exceptions. These 
sheep sheiks of the West have for so long held undis- 
puted monopoly over holdings as large as European 
principalities that they fail to read the writing on the 
wall, which proclaims the beginning of a new order of 
things. The vast estates of the Riverine will have to 
be cut up for closer settlement, and the land mono- 
polist must go. This splendid territory, embracing 
millions of acres of irrigable land on which a dense 
population might live and thrive, cannot remain for 
ever in the possession of a few dozen wool kings and 
foreign investors. It must, sooner or later, be occu- 
pied by Australians — or Japanese. Sheep can't hold it. 

In any general scheme of immigration and settle- 
ment which the Australian Government may under- 
take, the development of the Riverina should be put 
prominently forward. Federal control of the Murray 
waters would be a first step — but discussion of these 
economic and political possibilities will better come 
after the story of the journey has been told. 

Cobram East station gave "The Lone Hand" warm 
welcome and an invitation to come ashore and loot its 
orchard, where large, late peaches ofifered downy 
cheeks to the kisses of the sun. Here is one of the 


finest sites and fairest residences on the Murray, and 
its stalwart owner represents a type of Australian 
pastoralists who form the honorable exception. A 
hearty citizen, 6ft. 6in., filled with human tolerance 
and democratic spirit, willingly paying the best wages, 
and conceding the best conditions to his employees, 
so that his name is honored and regarded for hundreds 
of miles. 

We took our propeller shaft out here and 
straightened it. The propeller had struck some unseen 
object, and the blade was bent up till it had chipped 
out a groove in the sternpost. The river was still a 
waiting dragon desirous of making an end of our 
impudent motor boat somehow. 

We lunched under the bridge at Cobram, and 
watched some drovers bringing over a mob of fat 
sheep from Victoria into New South Wales. Dogs 
yelped, a cloud of dust went up into the air, shouts of 
men, and the cracking of whips were heard — a pack- 
horse trotted down to the riverside to drink; two 
horsemen met coming from opposite directions, let the 
reins fall loosely, and began to yarn. One man threw 
his leg over the saddle, and struck a match on his 
trousers — it was all a beautiful panorama, full of Aus- 
tralian light and color, and it was grand to lounge 
there in the shade munching our bread and cheese, 
and watch it. Peace dwelt in our hearts, and the 
prospect of adventure made golden every hour. New 
scenes, new faces, new life met us at every stage, and 
softened in some degree the asperities of our journey. 

The way was enlivened with incident, but one little 
happening after we passed Cobram left an indelible 
impression on my mind. Rounding a bend, we came 
upon a strange group on the bank. Two women and 
a lad were endeavoring to release a beast that had been 
bogged in the thick mud of the margin. We turned/ 
the boat inshore and offered assistance. On the bank 
sat an infant, with two little children beside it. The 


selector's wife and her neighbor and the lad were 
played out — their men were away working at Strath- 
merton, on the railway line, and they had been trying 
since early morning to drag the cow out of 
the mud, without success. We rigged a block 
and tackle, got a purchase on the limb of a 
tree, and after two hours' hard work succeeded 
in hauling the unfortunate animal half-way up 
the bank, where it lay rolling its eyes piteously, 
and plaintively lowing. It was too weak to get on its 
legs, and its chance of surviving was about one in a 
hundred. It was late to go further that day, so we 
ran up our tent on the bank. After nightfall the 
woman, carrying a lantern, some bags, and a bucket of 
chaff, reappeared on the scene. She was a wistful, 
pathetic, little woman, who had apparently been a very 
pretty young girl ; but adversity was wearing her 
down. They had had a run of bad luck and bad sea- 
sons, she told us. Sickness in the house had made 
the trials of backblock life still harder to face. But, 
she said, with a flickering smile, that she had a very 
good time before she was married, and she supposed 
she oughtn't to complain now. 

It was a simple philosophy, curiously feminine. 
The lantern threw an uncertain light over a picture 
full of homely pathos. The cow, stretched on its side, 
too weak to move, kept putting out its tongue and 
licking up chaff from the bag on which the selector's 
wife had spread it. Every now and then the animal 
would moan in a depressing, humanlike way. There 
is nothing more touching than the death of domestic 
animals, their appealing looks for help, their awful 
dumbness and despair. 

I shall long remember that scene on the Murray, 
that sad-faced woman, standing mournfully beside the 
expiring beast, the stars winking cruelly at their reflec- 
tions in the still water, the subdued noises of the 
Bush, and Nature, and Night. 






We arrived at Tocumwal early on a warm Saturday 
afternoon, and found no place of pleasant fountains 
and green fields and gardens, but an unpicturesque dis- 
array of iron-roofed dwellings scattered about an area 
of dust and desolation. But it was always pleasing to 
go to the post office and get news of the world, to 
have word of the near ones and dear ones, even to hear 
how one's enemies were prospering. 

Later, at Mildura, I was handed, by a mechanical 
official, two black-edg'ed envelopes, that let down a 
dark curtain between my life thoughts and the sun- 
light. Death — sudden and inexplicable — had claimed 
a victim, and hopes and dreams were laid in pall. But 
at Tocumwal the mails were all good, and all the gods 
in gracious mood. 

We went down along the river bank, and made a 
camp, intending to remain some days and rest after 
strenuous accomplishment. The strain was beginning to 
tell somewhat on our nerves already. Between Cobram 
and Tocumwal we had been aground about twenty 
times, our legs and arms and faces were blistered from 
the sun, and a plank of the boat was sprung. We had 
been striking snags and jumping logs continuously for 
a week. Jim's eyes were entirely bloodshot from con- 
stant peering ahead on sunlit waters. In the after- 
noons, when we were running down Western reaches, 
the glare was almost unendurable. The boat being 
right down on the water, there was no escape from 
this, and no relief except in language. And language 
is a poor anaesthetic for blistered legs and pained 

We began to admit now that we had made a mis- 
take. We should not have attempted to navigate the 
Murray when the Murray was little more, in places, 
than a chain of waterholes. We should have waited 
for a rise in the river. This conclusion came to us 
early on the voyage, but too late to be of any prac- 
ticable service. We had put the boat in the water. 


and had begun. We must either go on or admit 
failure; and there is nothing a sporting Australian 
public despises more than failure. Rightly so. This 
country is too young, too virile, to condone defeated 
efitort. Phillip, that gaunt captain of the Lost Legion, 
did not fail. He added a continent to an empire. Bass 
and Flinders did not fail, nor Blaxland, nor Mitchell, 
nor Sturt They were doers, and they did. 

Pride and self-respect and the memories of men 
came to our aid when we were tearing our hearts out 
tugging "The Lone Hand" over clinging sand and 
facing the chances. We told one another that we 
would go on while her planks held together. We 
would go on with sail and oars if the engine gave out. 
We would go on if it took twelve months to reach the 
Southern Ocean and we had to live on what we might 
gun and hook and steal along the road. In the light 
of this pious resolution we set up our camp at Tocum- 
wal, and, after a sufficient meal, wandered up town for 
some necessities. Tocumwal viewed us with languid 
curiosity. The district was undergoing a severe 
drought, and had grown dispirited. An occasional 
kerosene lamp added to the gloom of the main street. 
On a pane of glass outside a fruiterer's shop we read a 
sprawling legend about ice creams. This fascinated 
Jones. He said he had not eaten an ice cream for 
years. It would be a fitting thing to eat ice creams in 
Tocumwal, as proof that civilisation had really gone 
West. So we went in and demanded ice creams. A 
tired, heat-dried operative appeared, and shook his 
head sadly. They had been eaten out of ice by a lot 
of teamsters from Finley that afternoon — would we 
like lemonade? 

We stalked out, anguished of spirit, and went over 
to the pub in quest of sensation. Two violently- 
whiskered gentlemen were playing a furious game of 
billiards. A nondescript audience sat on benches 
round the walls looking on. Every now and then one 


of the players would score by accident, and the marker 
would wink at the audience, and the audience would 
secretly convulse. When one of the combatants used 
the rest, and leaned over the table intent upon a shot, 
his whiskers would sweep the cloth like a housemaid's 
broom, and mop up powdered chalk and dust till the 
greyness of premature age appeared to descend upon 
him. These men had come down from the back; 
plodding day after day beside tired, high-laden teams. 
They were having their "good time," enlivening the 
intervals with shouts all round, and filling up the cun- 
ning, ungrateful parasites of the pub with free liquor. 

It was a typical Western American scene, without 
the gun-play. It would probably end in a fight, but 
the fight wouldn't be fatal. The Australian has never 
taken kindly to the revolver as an arbiter of dispute. 
In all my experience of the remote bush, I have never 
seen the gun brought into play but once, and that was 
certainly tragical enough. I was in Northern Queens- 
land some years ago, driving a waggonette through 
from Parramatta to Townsville, and I happened on a 
small mining rush back from Mackay. It was a place 
of tents, gold excitement, and a canvas shanty, selling, 
I do believe, the worst grog that ever poisoned the 
stomachs of a casual population. The manager of the 
main reef — which had been mopped up quickly, as 
usual, by a syndicate — was a Welshman (Tregarthen 
will do), and he had had some unspecified trouble with 
a gentleman named Kelly. Kelly, so everybody 
admitted, was a decent, good Irishman, but suspicious 
and quarrelsome — two failings said to be racial and 
peculiar. I met Kelly in the canvas shanty, and he 
appeared calm at the time, but restless. He knew me 
as a Bulletin writer, repeated some lines that I had 
forgotten, and bought me an indifferent lemonade, 
regretting that I could not be persuaded to drink any- 
thing more virulent. After tea that evening I came 
out of my camp and strolled up town. There were 


lights in the tents, and the sound of a concertina some- 
where in the twilight brought up emotions connected 
with home. I bumped up in the shadows against a 
little knot of excited men, who, on closer contact, I 
found were arguing with Kelly about something. 

I walked along, and presently a human form pro- 
jected itself out of darkness, and went on, followed by 
other forms, gesticulating and still arguing. About 
fifty yards away stood a tent, throwing a geometrical 
candlelit shadow into night. At the approach of that 
shadowy form, and the uplifting of a voice — a voice of 
challenge which spelled trouble — the light was sud- 
denly quenched. Then I saw the figure of Kelly, with 
a revolver in its hand. 

"Come out!" cried the figure. "Come out, you 
. . . , you son of a . . . ; you spawn of . . ." 

No man calls another man such names unless he 
means to kill or be killed. 

There was no reply from the darkened tent. The 
figure in the dim light advanced several paces, and 
lifted its right arm. 

The darkness was quickly lit by a flash of fire, and 
the report woke the echoes of the hills. 

Then another form seemed to spring up out of 
night, and an answering flash and bang followed. 

Flash! bang! flash! — flash! bang! — bang! The air 
was pungent with the smell of gunpowder as we lifted 
poor Kelly. His head (a fine Irish head) lay heavy on 
my arm. I wished to God that moment that I had 
kept him in the canvas grog-shop, and saved that. 
Tregarthen was doubly justified, and I hope acquitted. 

I left him in the calaboose at Proserpine River, a 
dejected man. I don't know from that day to this 
how he fared, but I should judge that a North Queens- 
land jury returned a justifiable verdict of justifiable 
homicide. ... 

Growing weary of watching the uncombed West 
digging holes in a green cloth, we found a corner of 


the bar-room, and endeavoured to surround a quiet 
drink. But the billiard party, led by the two whis- 
kered combatants, came pounding in and commanded 
us to join them, which we did rather than provoke a 
breach of the peace. They were only half appeased 
because we insisted on having soft stuff. It had to be 
explained to them that we had made a bet at Albury 
we wouldn't take anything "hard" till we got to good 
water. Four other gentlemen, wearing long, bronzed 
beards, roared into the bar at this juncture. While 
they were yelling recognitions, and joyously exchang- 
ing curseful greetings, we slipped out into the street. 
The night air was thick with dust and heavy with the 
smell of sheep. This odor seems to cling permanently 
in the wool districts, especially in drought times. One 
breathes and eats and has one's hourly being in an 
atmosphere of sheep. The water tastes of sheep, the 
food has a sheepy flavor, the conversation is nearly all 
sheep. One goes to sleep at night counting imaginary 
sheep leaping a mental stile, and wakes in the morning 
to a breakfast of fried mutton. The plains are dotted 
with woolly bodies, the bridges are always blocked with 
them. You drive through compact mobs of jumbucks 
on the roads — the inevitable sheep-dogs in attendance ; 
you see them bogged along the river banks, and 
embedded in the waterholes ; you find strips of wool on 
the thorn bushes and barbed-wire fences ; bales of 
wool on the teams, on the trucks, on the barges. You 
come on shearing-sheds, resounding with the voice of 
labor; and you pass sheds standing quietly waiting 
for the opening of the season. Squatters, station- 
hands, selectors, shearers, and rouseabouts talk sheep 
to one another from different social standpoints, and 
the whole Cosmos is wrapped in a fleecy veil of greas}^ 
wool, which prevents one getting a proper perspective 
of politics or philosophy or the ordinary affairs of life. 
We struck the local agent for the Australian 
Workers' Union, and talked with him. The A.W.U. 


is the most powerful association of workers in Aus- 
tralia — where labor holds more power than in any other 
country of the world. It is the heart and kernel of the 
industrial movement; its members are representative 
bushmen, permeated with sound Australian sentiment, 
holding closely to advanced democratic ideals. No 
finer body of men was ever more closely knit in bonds 
of co-operative fellowship ; no such free and fearless 
and independent tribesmen have ever answered to the 
Jehad of economic organisation. This union is the 
keystone of the industrial arch. Its influence extends 
from the Gulf to the Bight; and from Sydney to Swan 
River its power is generally recognised, and frequently 

We left the A.W.U. man and went down street 
again looking for motor spirit, which we found we 
could buy at a reasonable advance on city prices. The 
introduction of the motor cycle into the flat country 
has been pretty general during the last few years, and 
the automobile is also becoming less of a novelty. The 
Australian back country is peculiarly suitable for this 
method of locomotion. The Western squatter mostly 
comes to the bush races nowadays in a French or 
American car, where he used to drive his four-in-hand 
or gallop gaily down on his thoroughbred. Livery 
stable proprietors in the towns are going in for cars. 
Police magistrates and Western officials, and private 
citizens who can afford, or have use for them, are 
following the trend of civilisation, and the empire of 
the horse is being rapidly invaded in Australia. 

The population of Tocumwal meandered away into 
night. We attempted a short cut back to our camp 
and got bushed. 

Naturally, Jones wanted to go one way, and I 
wanted to follow another, so we sat down on a log and 
argued about it. I said the river lay over to the east. 
Jim held that it ran right west from where we were. 
We might have stayed till morning discussing the pro- 


position if a late resident hadn't chanced along and 
directed us due south about two hundred yards, where 
the expiring- embers of our own camp-fire made a fluc- 
tuating point of light in the darkness. And then Jones 
said that was where he had wanted to go all the time ! 

We built up the fire, and finished the argument over 
a mug of cofifee, and made mutual concessions of points 
of the compass until it became clear that we had both 
been right, and merely misunderstood one another as 
to details. 

The natives of Tocumwal came and paid us Sunday 
morning visits, and inspected the motor boat, which 
was a new thing to their town. They made the usual 
sagacious remarks about the mechanism. 

After the crowd had left, towards lunch time, three 
timid little boys remained. There was something 
unusual about one of these lads that attracted our 
attention. We discovered that he had been totally 
blind from birth to within six months previously. A 
well-known oculist in Melbourne had partially restored 
his sight, and the poor youngster was just able to look 
out dimly upon the beauties and wonders of a sunlit 
world. It was only right that he was given a ten 
minutes' run in the wonderful motor boat, to be led 
home afterwards by his companions, a pathetically 
proud little figure, with deepened knowledge of human 
skill and power, and a further sense of human sym- 
pathy for weakness and suflfering — the greatest force 
of all. 

We dawdled away a balmy afternoon fishing, and 
took our Sabbath meal in the light of a most gorgeous 
sunset. Our camp faced the west. As the day closed 
the sandaled Hours couched their dying lord on his 
bed, and drew over his rest-place a mantle of crimson 
and gold. Great sun-bars of purple and crimson flared 
up to zenith, and died slowly down from softer lakes 
and shaded vermilions and electric blues into final pink 
and grey. The kookaburra laughed sarcastically in 


the lower limbs, and, swaying on the topmost boughs, 
magpies carolled evensong. The Evening Star — 
translucent, clear, ever-faithful — hung out her lamp of 
love beyond the eucalypti trees. The charmed dusk 
approached in robes of grey. 

Long after the sun had gone, across the river lay a 
pathway of red which slowly faded out, and night, 
diademed with stars, reigned over the bush. We 
withdrew within our tent, and wrote letters in pencil 
by the lig'ht of our hurricane lamp — using gentle 
phrases born in us from the beauty and glamor of that 

Re-petrolled and refreshed, we set out from Tocum- 
wal, and incontinently ran upon a claybank. This 
was an earnest of further troubles to come before we 
gained Echuca. We had left Albury with one set of 
dry cells, which were supposed to run us 800 miles. 
"Put not your trust in dry cells," is a suitable motto 
for motorists. Leaving Tocumwal, with over 100 
miles of particularly bad river to travel, we began to 
strike trouble with our batteries. But it was good 
country for fish and game; so we took things gently, 
and endeavored to preserve an even temper when the 
sparking-plug sulked or the fly-wheel refused duty. 
The monotony of snag-patches was relieved by clay- 
banks and shallows, so that we had no time to culti- 
vate ennui. The health of the Cave Man was ours. 
We attacked our corned beef and bread and stewed 
duck and fried fish with savage enthusiasm. We 
dived into the river for our daily bath, and swam 
against the current defiantly — shouting in splendid 
nakedness an uncouth challenge at Nature. When 
the engine was going well, and there came a run of 
good water, James would stand up astern and shoot 
round the bends, steering by swaying his body to port 
or starboard. Once James swayed out too far, and 
went overboard, amid yells of joy. 

"The Lone Hand" sped on, and I failed to stop her 





for nearly a quarter of a mile — I hadn't quite grasped 
the mechanism. Jones came down with the current 
in due course. He divested himself of his wet clothes, 
and drained himself, and sat on the petrol tank to dry 
— wearing only a pipe and a grin. Then I suddenly 
pretended to discover a house on the bank with a lot 
of people of the three sexes — men, women, and bank 
clerks — waving flags from the front verandah, and Jim 
dived under the thwarts and I hurriedly threw the 
sail over him and kept him there until we had rounded 
the next bend. I carried on a loud conversation with 
those mythical people as we passed the fabulous farm- 
house, and it was not until an explosion of mirth gave 
me away that he found the joke. But he got revenge 
on me next washing day — a mean, cowardly revenge. 
He boiled my flannels in the kerosene-tin with large 
quantities of soda, and they came out like garments of 
macerated chamois leather. They were no further 
use to me except as Wild West curios. So we hung 
them on the tent-pole to scare away evil spirits. 

Excepting occasional fishermen and timber-getters, 
there was now little population along the banks. The 
timber-men were engaged in cutting red-gum for the 
mills at Echuca. Great stacks of hardwood logs were 
piled here and there by the verge, waiting for the 
melting of the next winter's snows on Kosciusko, 
which would bring a rise in the Murray. We had 
already struck our first river steamer — an old-fashioned 
paddle-wheel vessel — tied up to the bank above 
Tocumwal. The skipper was ashore in the bush 
directing a gang of lumbermen when we came down- 
stream. His wife and family lived on the boat, as 
the wives and families of many Murray steamer cap- 
tains do ; and they told us that their vessel would have 
to remain where she was for months to come. W^hen 
the river rose, not before Spring probably, they would 
have a busy period towing down logs to the mill. 

Australian hardwood is never a very manageable 


timber. It will not float like Canadian pine. Conse- 
quently it has to be loaded into and slung alongside 
barges by stout chains, and so towed slowly to its 
destination. Red-gum is almost an object of worship 
on the' Murray. Its use is universal. Its durability, 
its virtues, its versatility are exalted by an enthusi- 
astic community, to many of whom it represents the 
Alpha and Omega of life. The mills declare divi- 
dends because of it; the sleeper-cutter keeps the pot 
boiling in return for his daily sweat upon it. The 
bullock-driver draws his Saturday night beer from it. 
The axeman's camp in the bush is kept supplied in 
tucker by it. The barge-master, the deck-hand, and 
the skipper of the river tramp know its value well. 
Steamers, barges, houses, flat-bottomed boats, fences 
and furniture are freely constructed from it, and it is 
even made into cofflns for the dead. Only very brave 
or very foolish men, or professional pugilists, would 
dare to sneer at red-gum on the Murray. 

We spent the first night after leaving Tocumwal 
with a camp of timber-getters. There were ten of 
them, men and youths, and they gave us rough and 
hearty welcome to share their evening meal. It was 
a thoroughly Australian community. All day long 
these great hairy-chested, strong-armed fellows had 
laid sharp steel to the butts of tough forest trees. 
They had gone out into the morning when the sun was 
just tickling the leaves to laughter. They came home 
with the down-going sun, what time the pale city 
clerk was hurrying to his suburban train. Their 
bodies were sour with sweat; they stripped and 
went into the water, laved hard muscles in the 
Murray, and were refreshed. Their strong hands 
were discolored with the life-sap of the giants they 
had slain. The blades of axes had swung, and the 
chips had fallen to right and left of them — there is a 
Viking pleasure in felling trees. They had lopped the 
softer green branches, and piled up the debris ready 


for future burning. They were tired, and had earned 
rest. They came into camp by twos and threes, sniff- 
ing the odors from the camp-ovens, where a much- 
criticised cook brooded over roast stuffed loins of mut- 
ton and accompanying baked potatoes. They shot 
amorous sidelong glances at the bubbling kerosene- 
tins containing currant-freighted orbs of boiling dough. 
Their eyes brightened at the universal black billies dif- 
fusing a refreshing aroma of tea. 

The boss of the gang was a tree-killer, 6ft. 3in. — 
all Australian. 

He was gifted with a great blonde beard, and his 
open shirt-front showed the chest of a bear. 

I was flattered when he closed a stained paw over 
my hand, and said he had read a book of mine about 
the sea. 

He had never in all his life beheld the marvel of the 
waters, but he had a longing for it, and he had pro- 
mised himself a trip to the coast next Christmas. 

I invited him to come and find me when he hit the 
town. H I was above rjround I would take him round, 
and we would behold things in company. It has been 
my good fortune on occasions to have charge of these 
simple, lovable sons of the interior where / could pose 
and lie. 

Great piles of billet wood, heaped along the banks 
at various stages, indicated the approach to navigable 
waters. The river steamers all use wood fuel. The 
supplying of this necessity affords a living to a horny- 
handed few. The occupation of woodcutter to 
steamers is not popular on the Murray ; the prices paid 
are low, and the work arduous. Nobody need work 
too hard in the Riverine, especially Vvhen fish are biting 
and rabbits plentiful. Down in the deep water, where 
river traffic is more regular, the wood piles on the 
banks became a feature of the scenery. I found some 
few permanent hands who had devoted years to the 
business. These people talked wood, thought wood. 


were wood. At times the steamboat hands have to 
go ashore themselves with axes to lay in a supply from 
the forest. During these intervals the ship's cook 
fishes over the stern for cod, and the passing whaler 
comes aboard to "scunge" tucker. 

Our daily skies continued blue. The mornings 
were just beginning to hint the freshness of autumn. 
Despite the difficulties we were called upon to face 
with every sunrise, the up-rising of the sun was always 
pleasant along these sandy bends. The early morn- 
ing shadows in the water — reflected forests growing, 
roots up, in huge water-mirrors — and the cool stillness 
of the trees made many a beautiful setting for our 
breakfast-room in the House of the Open Continent. 

It was joyous to see how the Australian bush, the 
bush of the West, came up out of slumber. Flocks 
of cockatoos and pink galahs — flying together, and 
making a delightful color scheme of pink and grey and 
white and saffron — screamed across the timber, or 
circled cautiously down to the river to drink. Some- 
times a little mob of black duck went whizzing up- 
stream, or a brace of mottled wood duck passed by 
carefully out of gunshot. Rhipi the wagtail, and his 
feathered brother, the peewit, sought the early insect 
with interchange of civilities. Gay parrots streaked 
across stream, flashing colored images in unruffled 
water. All the bush world became awake, alert, 
industrious — full of quest and call. It was soothing 
to pack up leisurely, clean and oil rifle and shotgun, 
and get the little motor engine going for the day's 
adventure and discovery. 

Along this stretch of country I found a few minutes' 
excitement, which provided subject for laughter 
between us for some days afterwards. Some casual 
inhabitant had directed us to a lagoon, which was sup- 
posed to lay in from the river about 500 yards. This 


lagoon was reputed to carry wild-fowl in numbers. 
When we arrived and located the place, Jones said he 
would stay in the boat and angle for a 4olb. cod, while 
I went ashore and slew a score of birds. We had 
begun to boast our particular sporting prowess. I 
filled my pockets with cartridges, and set out gaily for 
the lagoon. About a quarter of a mile from the river 
I struck a herd of cattle, seemingly unaccustomed to 
strangers. I discovered quite unexpectedly that the 
herd was captained by a fine, vigorous bull. The 
herd moved ofi', and left the bull standing in the open, 
pawing the ground in challenge. I am not in the 
habit of wrestling with champion stock under circum- 
stances of uneven battle. I surveyed the situation, 
and saw at once how all that territory owed allegiance 
to that bull. I was a mere trespasser; I had no moral 
or legal right there. I began to evacuate the coun- 
try. The bull, with lowered head and erected tail, 
undertook to hasten my movement, using threatening 
language as he advanced. I quickened my gait. Per- 
sonal dignity could not be appropriately preserved 
under the circumstances. I fled. Jones heard us 
coming. He got out on the bank, and saw me bring- 
ing the bull back to the boat. He said "shoo" to the 
bull, and waved his arms about, but the brute held on. 
I was leading the race, but from the compressed way 
the bull was breathing I could not tell exactly which 
of us would pass the winning-post first. Jones and I 
came over the bank together, with the animal a close 
third, and that motor boat got under way in record 
time. The bull stood up to his knees in the water, 
and hurled sneers and insults at us until we were away 
beyond the next bend. 

I do not think I got my breath properly until we 
were down to Lake Moira. 

The river narrows -on approach ta this lake, 
arid the current runs rapidly between reedy banks. 
We came to what seemed an open, treeless plain 


just before sunset. The plain was the bed of 
Moira — dry. In good seasons this is a fine sheet 
of water, the haunt of duck and swan and teal 
in their feathered thousands. An immense flight 
of blue cranes rose as we petrolled by the entrance. 
We ran on in the gloaming until we crashed into a 
snag, and were warned that the time for night travel- 
ling had not yet arrived. A camp fire on the bank 
wooed us, and we went ashore and were welcomed by 
hospitable sleeper-getters. They offered us bunks in 
one of their tents to save us pitching camp that even- 
ing, which we accepted thankfully. Our hosts were 
two young Victorian brothers, well spoken and well 
informed. They had shed the cities for the hard, 
healthy life of the bush, and were content with 
their choice. They were making good money, had a 
sulky and a couple of horses, a comfortable camp out- 
fit, and an account in the Savings Bank. Brown and 
hard, they scoffed at the pale operative in his stodgy 
suburban residence, as they lay, filled with good camp 
fare, on the grass beside their fire. Their days were 
filled with toil, but they knew no master, and their 
work lay under the clean and open skies. At night 
they could look out and see the stars. Australia will 
become a great nation by the multiplication of just 
such lads as these. 

The twinkling fires of that little community of 
nomadic workers died down among the trees as we 
smoked and talked with these young bushmen, enliven- 
ing our conversation by hauling in several wriggling 
codfish to our seats on the bank of the Murray. They 
gave us a friendly good-bye next morning at sunrise, 
as they swung out into the forest, axe on shoulder and 
billy in hand. 

We went down that forenoon to Barman Abori- 
ginal Mission Station. Here is a place for students. 
Here the Man of the Stone Age looks out with sad, 
pathetic eyes upon the Age of Steel. The neolithic 





type of humanity is doomed under twentieth century 
conditions. All over Australia the aborigine is fading 
fast. His extermination is rapid, inevitable. What 
the rifle begins the roof and the rum finish. The body 
of neolithic man can no more resist the v^hite man's 
germs than the white man's weapons. But it is meet 
and proper that the superior Age of Steel should 
extend a sophistical clemency to the doomed Age of 
Stone. So benevolence, allied to administration, has 
established various stations for the protection, encour- 
agement, and enlightenment of the Australian abori- 
gmal. To condemn or praise the results would be 
equally misleading. 1 have visited several of these 
institutions in New South Wales, Queensland, and 
South Australia, and in every case I have concluded 
that any attempt to graft the industries and habits of 
civilisation on to a nomad must be attended by 
failure. The aboriginal is neither a worker nor a 
house-dweller. He is by law of Nature a hunter, a 
fisher, and a wanderer. 

Barman Mission Station is, to all appearances, well 
conducted. The schoolmaster, Mr. James, is a most 
affable Eurasian of the Parsee caste, born in Mauri- 
tius, and married to a half-caste aboriginal woman. 
His daughter — a handsome, well-educated girl — acts 
as his assistant. At the time of our visit the school- 
room was over-filled by eighty scholars. Out of this 
heterogeneous collection of boys and girls there were 
not three full-blood aboriginals — the rest of the attend- 
ance was half-caste, mulatto, quadroon. 

The school went through various exercises credit- 
ably. Its singing was particularly good. As far as 
primary education is concerned, this tawny generation 
receives all the current benefits. The s;choolmaster 
spoke enthusiastically of his scholars. He said they 
were docile, obedient, and anxious to learn. He had 
occupied his position for over twenty years, and was 
growing old with the Mission. 


The school was called upon to stand up and sing a 
final .song. It was a cheap patriotic melody about 
''Australia Fair." The voices of those dusky children 
went out into the morning, chanting the song of the 
conquerors. Across the Murray the gum trees, that 
had made canoes and gunyahs for the departed tribes, 
waved their branches in sorrowful unison. Withered 
flowers in the little garden patches of the Mission 
homes bowed their sapless heads, symbolic of the 
scene. The song sounded to me as the requiem of a 
dying race. 

We walked down a dusty roadway between the 
cottages, where listless aborigines and half-castes 
whiled away the morning hours. At the Mission 
store a group of native women were gossiping. The 
natives are allowed a certain quantum of rations, which 
they can supplement by purchase. Some of them do 
well enough fishing and rabbiting, but as agriculturists 
or settlers they are a failure. In any case, agriculture 
under the conditions would not be successful without 
irrigation, and the pumping plant of the station is only 
an ordinary windmill. The people are peaceable, and 
fairly moral. Crimes of violence are unknown. 

Victoria has expended half a million of money on 
irrigation works on the Goulburn River, with satisfac- 
tory results. The weir near the town of Murchison 
provides a storage of 670,000,000 cubic feet of water. 
"The Lone Hand" passed the junction of the Goulburn 
and Murray in the afternoon, but its crew at that 
moment were more interested in other matters. 
Echuca lay not many miles distant, and the expedition 
was tired, and anxious for its mails. Something went 
wrong with the engine after leaving Barman, and the 
chief pirate took to the oars while the engineer spoke 
to the mechanism with a spanner. It was dark when 
we pulled into the bank, made a slipshod camp, and 
tiredly fried fish for late tea — eight miles above the 
town. We got the motor in going order again before 






breakfast, and descended upon Echuca early on a 
bright, sunny Saturday forenoon. We bore down upon 
the river steamer "Success," and boarded her. Cap- 
tain Freeman, bluff and good-humored, nearly thirty 
years a river skipper, stretched out a paw of welcome, 
and bade us use his boat as a lodging-house. There 
was an unoccupied cabin aft, with wire bunks and 
unusual comforts. We took possession of it, attired 
ourselves in our shore-going clothes, and went up 

Echuca will always be a green spot in my memory. 
It is a delightful, hospitable place, laid out in broad 
streets, planted with beautiful shade trees. It carries 
a population of 4000 people, whose principal occupa- 
tion appears to be the entertainment of visitors. They 
took us up to the Echuca Club, and made us honorary 
members ; they took us down to all the hotels, and 
forced us to drink. The Mayor entertained us at 
lunch, and a prominent councillor seized us for Sun- 
day tea. The place overflowed with hospitality, and 
chronic indigestion threatened unless we cut short our 
stay. No resolutions could stand very long against 
the liquid hospitality of this Victorian port — once the 
second in importance in its State. 

Echuca was invented in 1853 by a gentleman named 
Hopvvood. The town has raised a granite monument 
to him in the local park. The first building erected 
in Echuca was a pub. kept by Hopwood, who added a 
punt to the pub. and coined money, especially during 
the days of the gold rushes, when the digger went 
about the land joyously quitting his wealth — bathing 
his feet in champagne and lighting his pipe with five- 
pound notes. 

"The Lone Hand" was now at the head of naviga- 
tion on the Murray; a splendid wharf and a long line 
of waiting steamers, laid up for the season, indicated 
this. Everywhere glared evidences of the fact that 


Echuca was not only a great railway terminus, but a 
port needing only a scientific system of river locking 
to give her perennial trade and prosperity. The people 
are all solid on the question of locking the Murray. 
The Mayor himself had written a poem on the subject, 
full of patriotic sentiment and metrical mistakes, but 
a well-intentioned poem in every line. 

We held the proud distinction of being the first 
power boat to reach Echuca from Albury in twenty- 
five to thirty years, and, as honored guests, we were 
formally escorted to a spot on the New South Wales 
bank of the river, where portions of the Lady 
Augusta's hull were visible above the silt. It was in 
this famous vessel that Captain Cadell steamed up the 
Murray from Goolwa to a point above Swan Hill, and 
demonstrated the navigable possibilities of our inland 
waterways. Captain Cadell received £4000 from the 
South Australian Government in 1853, in recognition 
of his accomplishment. They seem to have paid bet- 
ter for accomplishment in Australia in those days. 

The four days spent on the Success were among 
the brightest of "The Lone Hand's" time on the Mur- 
ray. We cooked breakfast at the galley stove, and 
went up town, mostly by invitation, to other meals. 
Early in the mornings we would roll out of our cabin 
and dive off the steamer's stern into about forty feet 
of water, and so begin the day freshly. I made a pre- 
tence of doing some writing in the skipper's private 
cabin on the upper deck, but it was bad working 

The ladies of Echuca are specially beautiful, the 
men are strong and tall and brave ; and if Echuca 
were only certain of a fall of fourteen inches of 
rain every year, no one would want to leave it — 
even to go to Heaven. The only jarring note in this 
harmonious recital of facts is that Echuca has two 
contending gramophone depots, situated opposite one 
another in the main street, and these institutions are 
continuously endeavoring to gram each other down. 



The effect on the stranger is the same as if a great 
composer were transported to Paradise and heard a 
brass angel singing through its nose. 

Camped on the river about here were, besides our- 
selves, many curious characters — travellers, whalers, 
fishermen, and nondescripts. 1 was approached by 
one of these gentlemen, who wanted a passage on 
"The Lone Hand." He ofifered to act as cook and 
fo'castle hand in return for tucker and the trip down 
to Adelaide. I said we were fully manned and over- 
loaded, and then he confided to me his great thirst. 
I assuaged that, and we became good friends. He said 
he was known on the river as "Murray Tommy." A 
little, red-faced man, with grizzled whiskers, was 
Thomas. He had been an old sailorman, and sailed 
in "Dickie" Green's ships in the roaring days. He 
camped on the Success sometimes at nights when the 
skipper's son was ashore. The steamer lay outside 
a barge, and we had to climb up a wobbling, six-inch 
plank to get aboard. It was always a matter of gym- 
nastics to mount or descend that bucking plank. 
Whenever "Murray Tommy" came aboard late at 
night he would put dignity aside and climb up the 
plank on to the barge, and then across her decks to 
the steamer monkey fashion. Long years of long 
beers had taught him discretion. It was weird to see 
that venerable old head appearing over the side of the 
barge in the moonlight, and to see Tommy, very 
loaded, crawling round the steamer's deck on all fours, 
looking for his bunk. He was one of the most pathetic 
inebriates I have never met, even in the back country, 
where the chronic drunk is a perpetual blot on the 
landscape. Tommy's daily diet was raw onions all 
the time we were in Echuca ; he said he could eat 
nothing else when he was on a spree. His disserta- 
tions on the sustaining and curative properties of 
onions would gladden the soul of a Warrnambool 
farmer. He carried about with him the constant odor 


of an onion bed which had been rolled flat with a leak- 
ing hogshead of beer. 

The timber mills at Echuca were interesting. Here 
hundreds of splendid red-gum logs, floated or towed to 
their destination, waited the snarling teeth of the 
circular saws. Here by the riverside, also, the wheat 
of the district was being ground into good, wholesome 
Australian flour, and the district hog converted into 
well-cured bacon. The photographer and the dentist 
flourished; prosperity made patriotic citizens. The 
people were justly proud of their little city. 

We left this place with some regret. We had 
made scores of friends, and received treatment gene- 
rous enough for travelling princes. Re-provisioned 
and loaded with gifts of fruit, tomatoes, and cucum- 
bers from a friendly grower who had read The 
Bulletin and The Lone Hand from their respective 
first issues, we said good-bye at last, and turned the 
bow of our motor-skiff towards far-away Swan Hill. 
From Echuca the Murray runs nor'-west for some 
hundreds of miles. In good seasons the country is 
doubtless fertile and green. At the time of our pass- 
age it was sere and grey. Moreover, it is the worst 
strip along the river for snakes. A long course of 
Australian travel has rendered me comparatively care- 
less about snakes ; but Jim Jones cherished a rooted 
hatred to the reptiles. I gratified his heart by shoot- 
ing a good number of them along this stretch. Every 
day we encountered them swimming in the water, and 
dealt destruction as we passed by. The evening 
camps became a matter of more careful selection ; we 
shook out the rugs and blankets gingerly before we 
laid them down at night or rolled them up m the 
mornings. The people we met talked a good deal of 
snake — probably with benevolent intentions, but the 
conversation got on our nerves. The great snake 
area was said to end a few miles below Swan Hill. 
Why, no one appears to know. 


About twenty miles below Echuca we met a snag 
boat employed by the Victorian Government in keep- 
ing parts of the channel clear. The New South Wales 
authorities have declined to bear any share of the 
expense, and the two snag- boats afforded by Victoria 
are unable to cope with the task. Certainly we found 
about thirty miles of good, clear river, and were glad 
of it; but below that again the old conditions pre- 
vailed. These snag boats are fitted with powerful 
winches and stout tackle. The logs are dragged out 
of the fairway and piled up on the banks, to be burned 
off when dry. For many years the snagging parties 
simply hauled the timber up on the banks, and left it 
there to be washed in again by the first flood. Then 
some unknown genius discovered that the best plan 
was to burn it off, and the public revenue has benefited 
in consequence. Whoever the genius is, he should 
receive a pension — indications of intelligence are so 
rare among officials in this country. Our first day's 
run after leaving Echuca brought us to Pericoota out- 
station. Here we saw, in large tracts of green coun- 
try smiling with sorghum and lucerne, the practical 
benefits of irrigation. On the Victorian side pump- 
ing stations became more frequent, for the Southern 
State is beginning to follow a regular system of ren- 
dering fertile and fit for occupation large areas of land 
which otherwise would remain dry and unproductive 
three years out of five. 

From Pericoota to Koondrook was a long, weary 
length of banks and bends. We seemed to be going 
down hill most of the time. Desolate forests, cover- 
ing flat, grassless plains, disheartened us when we 
went ashore. The habitations were few and far 
between. We landed next evening near a timber- 
getters' camp. Barney Kelly came down to the boat 
and introduced himself. Barney was a pleasant relief. 
He took us to his camp, and compelled us to have 
dinner with him in his dining-hall of bark and boughs. 


His pretty, fair-haired wife poured out our tea with 
the deftness of a sylph. Then Barney gave us some 
personal history. He was still a young man, but he 
had known the strenuous Australian life. Three years 
before he had a little business of his own in Melbourne. 
He failed, and turned to canvassing for a book agency. 
From that, he became a traveller for a firm which 
imported sacred pictures and blessed ornaments. Bar- 
ney's temperament, his native joyousness, his youth, his 
flippancy, militated against success in this avocation, 
which is more suitable, as he explained, to elderly 
gentlemen of reverent speech and pious appearance. 
He was "up against his luck," so he decided to hit out 
for the bush. He went to a registry office and booked 
himself and his young wife as an eligible married 
couple. The agency procured them a position in this 
capacity with a "cocky" farmer in nor'-western Vic- 
toria. The story of Barney's efforts to live up to the 
"cocky's" ideal of labor would make a volume. After 
a week's peonage, rising before dawn and lying down 
at 10 p.m., Barney and the "missus" unceremoniously 
left the farmer and took to the track. They tramped 
over fifty miles together before he got work cutting 
timber for a mill. He took a contract for forty tons 
at a ridiculous figure, put up a tent, and faced the 
situation. Now he was winning out, getting on his 
feet, and putting money away to start in business 
again. His courage certainly deserved reward — and, 
judging by the steak-and-kidney pie on which Mrs. 
Barney fed us, his plucky helpmate deserved reward 
also. She was grit all through, and a wonderful cook 
— two virtues which sit well on an Australian girl. 

Barney Kelly made our sojourn by his camp 
instructive and amusing. His sunny nature and sense 
of humor brightened the hours till nearly midnight, 
and his conversation was as harmonious as a 
Beethoven symphony. He was one of those men you 
like to hear talk, a mimic and a wit. Before we 


turned in he carried four heavy bags of chaff down to 
the tent, that we might have a more comfortable bed; 
and he roused us in the morning, and led us, arm in 
arm, up the bank again to breakfast. In vain we 
pleaded that we were trespassers. It was not every- 
day, he said, that he got people to talk to who had 
known cities or understood a joke. 

The following day, being Friday, was unlucky. 
The dry cells we had brought from Albury were giving 
out. We had wired to Sydney for fresh batteries to 
meet us at Swan Hill, but Swan Hill was more than 
two hundred miles away. Jones kept setting up 
fresh combinations with the cells in hand, while I 
blistered my hands on the oars. It is no holiday pull- 
ing a motor-skiff, with a full cargo, down a sluggish 
watercourse. The motor would run a mile or so. and 
then go on strike in a most exasperating manner, I 
began to make critical remarks about motor boats, 
which annoyed Jones. He seized the paddles, and 
invited me to have a try at the engine. I went aft 
and spoke nicely to it. I had learned something about 
volts and claw connections, and exhausts and ignition, 
and I thought I could talk to that engine in the lan- 
guage it understood. Then I put my finger on a live 
wire, and the battery promptly arose and bit me. I 
resigned, and the engineer-in-chief resumed command. 
He hit the fly-wheel with the starting handle, and 
threatened to throw the batteries into the Murray. 
That seemed to have a good effect. 

We got to a desolate-looking hut about 3 p.m. A 
ragged girl stood on the bank watching us; when we 
landed she ran away. A ragged youth started out 
from under a bush, and ran a\vay also. We gave 
chase. After a vigorous pursuit he was brought to 
bay. He seized a stick, and stood with his back to a 
tree. We laid off and parleyed with him. When he 
saw that we were not out to kidnap children of the 
bush he became calmer. We wanted to know how 


far we were from a telegraph station. Before we 
could get an intelligible answer from him the girl 
reappeared at the door of the hut, armed with an old 
muzzle-loader, which was probably charged with rusty 
nails. We made a detour round to the boat, and got 
aboard. It seemed better to pull on to Koondrook 
than seek for information in that wilderness. 

"The Lone Hand" came into Koondrook under 
alternate petrol and hand-power. It was nearly noon 
on a warm Saturday morning. We might have 
reached the town earlier in the day if Jones had not 
insisted on landing to extricate bogged sheep. We 
levered three heavy wethers out of the mud, and when 
we turned the next bend three more awaited assist- 
ance. Tones said he had exhausted his stock of phil- 
anthropy. Thereafter we left the squatters of the 
Murray to save their own stock. 

Koondrook is by no means a picturesque or beauti- 
ful hamlet. It is connected with the Victorian town 
of Kerang by a tramway, controlled by the shire 
council. This tramway is the moLt casual and semi- 
occasional institution of its kind on earth. I sat on a 
bale of goods at the depot, and watched the tired 
public inconvenience getting under way. The officials 
all wore long, wide beards. It was evident that they 
had graudated in the bullock-driving profession. The 
pointsman said "Whoa" to the engine when it was 
shunting, and I should not have been surprised if the 
goods clerk had come out to dispatch the 1.30 with a 
whip. I had raced to the telegraph office and wired 
to Melbourne for a set of new batteries, which should 
have reached us at Koondrook on the following Mon- 
day afternoon. We waited in this awesome place 
until Tuesday morning for the batteries, which had 
been promptly despatched. Then, rather than become 
hopelessly insane, we decided to go on to Swan Hill, 
even if we had to pull all the weary way. Violent 



In the Red-Gum Country— 
The Biggest Tree on the Murray. 



wires to various railway officials brought the batteries 
to Swan Hill in due course, but that belongs to the 

The industry of Koondrook is red-gum. The 
streets are paved with sawdust, which makes acrid all 
the atmosphere of the place. Timber-freighted barges 
line the banks of the Murray below the blackened 
wooden huts of the mill hands. Rafts and piles of 
logs loom up everywhere. Teams and jiggers toil 
along the dusty roads laden with logs. Sunken logs 
obstruct the channel. When a Koondrook resident 
has nightmare he dreams that a twenty-ton log lies 
upon his heaving breast. Strange to say, some of the 
houses are not built of logs, but sun-baked bricks 
painted over in pleasant colors. This indicates an 
aesthetic reaction against red-gum, which may lead to 
a revolution in time. 

Opposite Koondrook, in New South Wales, stands 
the town of Barham, from which the road goes out to 
Moulamein and Balranald, across the squatters' level 
lands and into the heart of the great sheepwalks of the 
mother State. 

The schoolmaster of Koondrook piloted us to a 
good anchorage at the back of his seminary, and we 
made a comfortable camp. I concocted a duck stew, 
while James docked ship and located a leak that had 
been sprung in collision with one of our many militant 
snags. He also rigged an awning for "The Lone 
Hand," which we had to take ofif again afterwards, and 
never replaced. 

The quietude of a Sunday in Koondrook cannot be 
described. Sunday is a melancholy day in most 
places in Australia, but here the hours v/ere shod with 
lead. We fished and fraternised with a traveller who 
was making for Swan Hill. The traveller had a mate ; 
but he was of a retiring nature, and lay under a tree all 
day reading an ancient copy of The Christian 
Herald, He was suflfering a recover)^ and inclined 


to concentrate his attention on the Hereafter. The 
traveller had suffered his recovery, and was going back 
to work on a station near Hay. He had been in Mel- 
bourne for six weeks, and knocked down a cheque for 
£ioo — the savings of eighteen months. He was 
happy and hardened, and required no Christian 
Herald. He looked forward to another gay time in 
town after a year or two. He admitted cheerfully 
that he was getting through life in that way. 

There are hundreds like him out West, men to 
whom money is only a thing to be hoarded for a cer- 
tain time — then, "flung to the winds like rain." They 
are practical Epicureans, disciples of Omar, restless 
spirits, imbued with the philosophy of recklessness and 
devil-may-care. Their histories are often unwritten 
volumes of Romance, in which the faded photographs 
of other men's wives, ribbons of other men's loves, 
crushed roses and curls of dead idols have a hidden 
place. They scoff at commercial convenances, flout 
conventionalities, and laugh rudely before the altars of 
Society. They play their parts beyond the horizons 
of culture, and sometimes carry arms. They are poor 
respecters of law, and chafe at order; but mostly they 
are — Men. I have ridden and tramped, mealed and 
camped, thirsted and striven with this breed, and at 
least I can say that it is seldom small-souled or mean. 
When the days of red war come in Australia, when the 
puling politician races the pompous merchant for 
cover, it will be good for Australia if she can raise a 
few battalions of such battlers and ne'er-do-wells. 
Some of them will rise to be generals of division ; but 
many of them will go down with hecatombs of dead 

enemy to gladden their departing souls. 


We fretted away ATonday waiting for batteries that 
did not arrive, and, after an excusable protest, resumed 
our journey on the Tuesday morning. Our dry cells 
had made up slightly with the rest, but uncertain 


ignition and frequent stoppages caused "The Lone 
Hand" crew constant irritation. Hereabouts we fell 
in with a gentleman named Bottles, who was coming 
up-stream from Mildura. The outfit of Bottles was a 
flat-bottomed skiff, covered by a tent fly stretched on 
a home-made frame. His barque was bound for 
Echuca, and ostensibly Bottles was seeking work. 
The manager of Gonn station told us, apropos of 
Bottles, that he never employed men who travelled the 
river in boats. They were all people of leisurely 
habit, who could not be relied upon for more than a 
week at the most. Below Swan Hill, all the way to 
Murray Bridge, I fell in with these whalers, jaunting 
along in all sorts of queer little craft. The squatters 
are very sour on them, inasmuch as they neither toil 
nor spin as long as it is possible to procure tucker 
without suffering the penance of constant occupation. 
They are cheerful water vagabonds, however, and pre- 
sent quaint character and abundance of copy to an 
itinerant writer. 

Bottles came alongside the motor boat and enquired 
its cost. He had a dozen or so of rabbit-skins drying 
in his boat, and would have offered trade if encouraged. 
He said if he could make a bit of money next season he 
would have one of them motor boats — they saved any 
amount of graft. His account of the river from Mil- 
dura was not cheerful. It was a wicked, withered, 
weary way. Tucker was hard to get, the stations 
were growing more hungry every year ; "a bloke had 
to crawl to the cook for a pannikin of flour" ; even the 
fish didn't bite like they used to. If we expected to 
get graft at Mildura we would be disappointed. There 
had been a strike there, and the place was done. We 
discovered after that Bottles, with a few more Mel- 
bourne compatriots, had been engaged in strike-break- 
ing, a most unpopular occupation out back — which 
sometimes ends fatally for the strike-breaker. 

Having recited his wrongs and woes, Bottles 


begged tobacco and resumed his voyage to Echuca, 
and we got down somehow to the junction of Pental 
Island, where we struck a ploughing camp engaged in 
breaking land on the N.S.W. side for the late David 
Syme of Victoria, station owner as well as newspaper 
proprietor. They w^ere a genial crowd, numbering 
among them an electrician, an ex-actor, and a younger 
son. The younger son had grown old in Australia, 
but had not lost his beautiful English accent. He 
lived in hopes of a heritage, and was familiar with hard 
times. The ex-actor was suffering from boils and 
home-sickness. By this time I should say he has 
gone back to the stage. That night in his camp he 
drew from his slop-chest a treasured volume, in which 
were pasted English, American, and Australian 
"notices." We talked stage and players ; gossiped 
about people "in the business," and recalled historical 
first-nights, away there in the soft Australian dusk, 
with the calling of night birds for our orchestra and 
the star-painted cloth of Heaven for a drop act. This 
is the country of the imexpected ; also, it is the grave- 
yard of lost identities. 

The dry cells gave out altogether next morning. 
We could only get an occasional kick out of the motor, 
and we were thirty miles from Swan Hill ! We 
divided ourselves into shifts, workins: alternate half- 
hours at the oars. From Echuca to Mildura the miles 
are marked on the trees along the banks of the Mur- 
ray. We bent to the oars, and watched those tedious 
miles go by, hour after hour. Since leaving Echuca 
we had encountered many reefs. These rocky bars 
ran out from either bank, sometimes leaving only a 
narrow channel, through which the current raced and 
boiled. The dangers of submerged rocks had been 
added to the danger of snags. The voyage of "The 
Eone Hand" was never dull ; there was always some- 
thing to keep us occupied. We boiled our midday 
billy on a wind-swept plain, where dust and particles 

Red;Gum, Lower Murray. 


of dried grass gyrated drearily. Towards sundown 
we saw the roofs and spires of Swan Hill beyond the 
bends, and in our glad excitement ran on to a mud- 
bank, and stayed there for half an hour, not without 
comment. There is a broad stretch of water above 
the town. We had saved up our last amperes, so we 
coaxed the engine into operation, swung down under 
the bridge, and saved our dignity. 

The office of H.M. Customs stands by the riverside. 
The officer was a kindly man. He placed an empty 
room at our disposal, and found us wood to make a fire. 
We boiled coffee, and were refreshed. Then we shed 
our old clothes and sheath-knives, and went up town 
re-attired in more conventional garb, and found two 
fresh sets of batteries awaiting us. A great peace fell 
upon our souls ; there would be no more galley slavery 
for a tired crew of two. That evening we jostled with 
the crowd at the post ofHce to get late mails on 
delivery. Considering that they had had only one 
shower of rain at Swan Hill during the preceding ten 
months, it was a good-humored crowd, which trod one 
another's corns before the postmaster's desk without 

The people who picture Australians as pessimists 
look at this country through the dun-colored glasses 
of a morbid imagination. The inhabitants of Swan 
Hill have everything to make them serious. The 
surrounding country in drought time is no more than 
a flat, ugly desert of red sand, vv^hich begins in the 
near suburbs of the town, and stretches away to the 
skyline. Hot and cold blasts sweep across the plains, 
and wake this red dust up into blood-coloured whirl- 
winds. Except on occasional irrigation areas no 
green verdure gladdens the eye. The stunted pepper 
trees in the main streets wear dusty-red coats, and 
stand like soldiers of desolation lost in a Sahara of 
despair. The domestic goat wanders disconsolately 
over the landscape, seeking sustenance from clothes 


lines on washing days, or prowls about the railway 
yards in search of axle-grease, couplings, tarpaulins, 
sawdust, or other delicacies. The discovery of a 
straw envelope or an old newspaper leads to a goat 
riot, on which the townspeople bet freely. When 
clouds arise they also make long wagers on the possi- 
bilities of rain. Yet they are a cheerful and hopeful 
people, boasting proudly that there is not a penny of 
debt on their local hospital. They have a newspaper 
and stores, and a livery stable running a motor car. 
They took us out for a forty-mile run over the plain 
in their new car next day, and we came back alive and 
grateful. The roads were fairly level. We had a 
motor expert from Melbourne with us, but there was a 
decided tendency to quicken the landscape for the 
benefit of strangers. Moreover, having come from 
Albury as first motorists, extra care was taken that the 
run out and back should not be tame or unexciting. 
In return for hospitalities received, we took some pro- 
minent townsfolk out in "The Lone Hand," and 
showed them how to jump logs. W^e had reputations 
to maintain, even if it cost a propeller. Jones was not 
the man to be outdone in little courtesies of the kind. 
We laid in a fresh supply of meat, bread, groceries, 
and petrol, and left Swan Hill on Saturday morning 
for Mildura, 325 river miles distant. The Murray 
here meanders through a treeless plain for many 
leagues. Its banks were, for the first time since 
Albury, unclothed by vegetation. We ran upon reef 
after reef, across which the river boiled viciously. 
Several times "The Lone Hand" struck, and narrowly 
escaped being rolled over in these rapids. Very often 
we could not spy out a passage, and simply had to go 
at it and take our chances. To make the day more 
strenuous, we took the wrong channel round Beveridge 
Island, and found a succession of shoals and reefs 
awaiting us. We were out of the boat, treading sharp 
shale, and hanging on to the side, a dozen times in an 


hour before we got into the main river again. A half- 
dozen brace of plover and a fat black duck hardly com- 
pensated for this ten miles' detour. A small river 
steamer, towing a barge, had left Swan Hill a week 
previously to try for the Murrumbidgee junction. We 
ran on to Nyah station that afternoon, and hearing that 
this little craft was tied up three or four miles lower 
down, decided to make for her. Night had found us 
when we saw a dim light shining through calico by 
the bank, and a camp fire with a shadowy form bend- 
ing over its blaze. We stopped and hailed. A plea- 
back. All the way along the river we had heard of a 
sant voice, speaking unmistakable city English, called 
house-boat that, starting with the last fresh, was work- 
ing a devious passage down stream. We were curious 
about this mysterious craft, and often wondered where 
we would meet it, who its owner was, and what tales 
of adventure, mishap, and escape he might have to 
recite. He had been on the river many weeks, and 
here at last we found him. 

"Are you the house-boat from Albury?" we 
shouted across. 

"Aye, Aye !" came the answer. "Are you 'The 
Lone Hand' motor boat?" 

"Aye !" 

"Heard all about you. How did you get on?" 

"Tough time. How did you find it? Heard about 
you, too!" 

"Tough!" the house-boat called back. "I was 
snagged up above Lake Moira. Had to get the family 
ashore in my dinghy. Hauled the boat out with a 
team of bullocks. Been nearly wrecked a dozen 

Curiosity overcame me. 

"Excuse me," I ventured, "but what the mischief 
are you doing it for?" 


The shadowy figure laughed. 

"Health," it shouted, "and amusement. Did you 
get any fishing?" 

"Plenty. How many miles a day do you make?" 

"I'm not travelling for speed," the house-boat 
replied. "Sometimes four. What are you making?" 

"Thirty to fifty, in good water." 

"You'll get to Adelaide before me, I think. .-Will 
you come and have some tea?" 

We thanked our unknown contemporary on the 
bank, and said we were making for the steamer. . He 
said she was tied up around the next bend. We 
hailed good-bye and good luck to one another, and 
parted — "ships that pass in the night." 

We overhauled the vessel from Swan Hill. She 
was moored with her barge against the steep edge of 
New South Wales. The skipper and his engineer 
and crew of three made us very welcome. They relit 
the fire in the galley stove, and after we had boiled our 
billy and fed we talked river and inland navigation. 

They had been ten days coming from the port we 
left that morning. They had to warp over many 
places by hitching a wire hawser to a tree and hauling 
their boat ahead. They called down blessings on the 
head of the enterprising owners who sent them out on 
a low river. But the stations wanted supplies and 
fodder. The river-men must try and toil their freight 
along. The skipper had spent twenty years of his life 
on the Murray. He served his apprenticeship with a 
German captain on the South Australian reaches. 

The old man had a dog ("Charley") who was as 
well known on the river as himself. Charley would 
stand in the wheel-house beside his master, and howl 
when he smelled shallow water. That old skipper 
cherished a rooted delusion that his dog "Sharley" was 
a hunter as well as a navigator. When "Sharley" got 
a chance he would leap ashore to pursue rabbits. The 
dog would bolt across the plain on a mythical scent, 


and the captain would have to pursue "Sharley" and 
bring him back. The boat was held up by the bank 
in consequence, and the hands rested. One day the 
captain dropped down to the fact that his crew secretly 
inspired that dog with the lust of chase for their own 
idle purposes. Next time "Sharley" went ashore and 
laid up the steamer, he set his ship's company to cut- 
ting wood for the engine-room. Thenceforward 
"Sharley" seemed to lose his enthusiasm for rabbit- 
hunting, and re-centred his canine intelligence on 
navigation. . 

There was a tarpaulin over the barge, and under 
this all hands bunked, except the engineer, who was a 
taciturn, solitary Scotchman. He had been in deep- 
sea ships, and spoke — when he spoke at all — in con- 
temptuous dialect about the rivers and all they held. 
He said the Murray was a "domned puddle hole, and 
nae fet place for ony mon wi' a ceertificate, let alone a 
mon wha had been i' the Atlantic trade." That 
Scotchman had a grief or a repentance hidden about 
him somewhere. But you cannot get to a Scotch- 
man's sentiments, even if he wears a danger-signal 
nose. No Scotsman bares his soul except on Hog- 
manay, and that only occurs once a year. If the Scot 
had the imagination of the Celt, the flag of St. Andrew 
would float over the earth. If the Celt had the reserve 
of the Scot, a green flag would occupy the saluting 
base for all nations. As it is, the Union Jack carries 
far, and the three little peoples make a fortuitous com- 
bination to overrun the planet. All of this occurred 
to me watching that Scotch engineer's sharp, red nose. 

We bunked under the tarpaulin with the crew in a 
close atmosphere, redolent with the musty odor of 
chaff and station stores. The skipper lay on his back 
repeating passages from popular Australian writers. 
His knowledge of literature was confined to that of his 
own country, and, like hundreds of bushmen, stock- 
men and back-blockers, The Bulletin was his Bible. 


The purely Australian sentiment is steadily growing 
in the bush, for the generation of the later-born knows 
no other land. In time Australian politicians and 
newspaper proprietors will come to realise this fact. 

We left our friends while the mists of morning 
were still on the water. We struck a solitary selection 
about late breakfast time. As usual, the family 
turned out at our coming, and sought the bank to 
behold and comment on "The Lone Hand." I asked 
permission to fry a pan of bacon and boil the billy at 
their kitchen fire. The selector was a voluble little 
man with a grievance against the Government. He 
said the authorities in Melbourne were not dealing 
fairly with settlers in the Mallee. He was so insistent 
that I couldn't get away from that cooking stove until 
the bacon was absolutely fried to chips. 

Jones was sitting in the boat with a cold hungry 
stare on his face, when I returned, pan in hand. 

"You haven't been long," he remarked, sarcasti- 

"No," I replied, "bacon fries quickly these cold 
mornings. Would you mind just going up to the 
house for the billy? I've forgotten it. I'll get out 
the mugs and things." My mate went up the bank. 
He did not re-appear for half an hour; the tea was 

"Damn the Mallee !" he cried, flinging himself 
viciously into the boat. 

"Yes!" I agreed. 

I handed him a tin plate of black bacon chips. 

"Curse the Victorian Government!" he yelled, 
dumping the lot overboard. 

"Amen !" I said, throwing my share after them. We 
breakfasted on cheese and bread and jam and cold tea. 

I trust the responsible Minister will some day be 
compelled to receive a deputation, headed by that little 
man, and I pray the deputation may arrive just before 
dinner time. 


We bumped along over reefs and snags, and came 
abreast of the second Murray snag-boat at noon. A 
heartier, happier, better-fed ship's company I have 
never met. They had been looking out for us, had 
read of our exploits in the newspapers, and extended 
a brotherly welcome, coupled with an invitation to 
Sunday dinner. 

The skipper was a Breton Frenchman, with an 
explosive laugh. Jollity oozed from him. The oil 
of good humor exuded from his crew. The cook was 
a genius — a stout, fresh-complexioned genius, whose 
roast stuffed mutton and inimitable plum pudding 
would make envious the chefs of the Savoy or Paris 
House. The cook at the ploughing camp had com- 
pelled us to accept two large sample loaves of his 
"brownie." I would advise those dyspeptic city folks 
to whom "brownie" is unknown to take a pilgrimage 
to that ploughing camp. 

But in the cook of the snag-boat he has a 
dangerous rival. They will, perhaps, meet some 
day, and all the Riverine will watch the con- 
test with watering mouths. We had two plucked 
wild duck in the boat, and I handed them ten- 
derly to the jolly Breton's cook. He tenderly returned 
them to me on our departure — a poem in brown. 
There was a basket of newly-caught codfish on board 
the snag-boat, and if anything could induce me to 
break the day's run, I think the prospect of fish fried 
by that cook would have done so. 

But the most dangerous and difficult point on all the 
Murray River lay before us that afternoon, and we were 
anxious to face it and have it over one way or the other. 
Six or seven miles below the snag-boat was the "Bitch 
and Pups," so called on all the river charts, and, there- 
fore, needing no apology. The nomenclature of the 
Murray is rude but expressive. We had the "Devil's 
Elbow," "Hell's Gates," "Hospital Bend/' and the 
"Bitch and Pups" in turn. 

We had heard of this place as far back as Echuca, 


All the river men had warned us of it, and now the 
people of the snag-boat advised us seriously not to 
attempt to drive through it, but to lower our boat over 
carefully with ropes, steadying her by lines on either 
side of the bank. They said that even when the river 
was navigable the steamers warped over, and some- 
times took a full day to do it. They gave us final 
directions, and we set out not altogether free from 

Briefly described, the "Bitch and Pups" is a cataract 
over which the entire volume of the Murray goes vio- 
lently down into a hole, 30 feet in depth, with an 
eternal roar. We heard the roaring of this sinister 
river devil a mile or more before we came in sight of 
it. Coming round a sharp bend, the long-anticipated 
"Bitch and Pups" lay before us. The cataract was 
situated in a curve of the New South Wales bank. On 
the Victorian side stood an island, the inner channel 
of which was dry. From the point of this island to 
the opposite bank was not more than 20 yards. 
Through that narrow gut the Murray raced and howled 
across a rocky bar. The foam rose up to a height of 
several feet — white, frothing. Boulders, slippery and 
water-worn, projected at intervals; black, ugly 
boulders that gave warnings of ship-wrecked motor- 
boats, and a crew of two swimming round and round 
like rats in a huge churn. It was not pleasant to 
think of battling for life in that whirlpool. 

We turned into a back water and surveyed the 
problem before us. I looked at Jones and he looked 
at me. He was navigator; I waited for him to speak 
first. Jim did not speak. He took a long, deep, 
thoughtful view of the country ahead. Then he 
slowly divested himself of his coat, and rolled up first 
one leg of his trousers tightly above the knee, then 
the other. Then he rolled up the sleeves of his shirt. 
I dutifully followed suit. He stood up, got final bear- 
ings, and turned to me. 


"I'm going to put her at full speed," he said. "I 
can't see any other way." 

"Tell me what to do," I said. 

"Well," replied Jones, "the current here is running 
about twelve miles an hour. There must be a big 
fall in the river-bed. It's a kind of slope-down, and 
then the Murray falls over a rocky bank into deep 

"Seems a geological fact," said I. "But tell me 
just what to do for the preservation of human life and 
the prevention of accidents.' 

"Go forward," replied Jones, "until we hit the rip ; 
then, when I sing out 'Aft!' you come aft at once." 

We made our dispositions accordingly; tucked the 
guns under the seats, tied the handle of the camera- 
case to something, and carefully covered our bedding 
and effects with the sail and sheet of waterproof. Then 
we got full speed on the motor, and put "The Lone 
Hand" at it, much as a huntsman might put his charger 
at a ditch. The 300 yards' race into that cataract was 
like going down a switch-back. We shot towards 
the boil. 

Crunch ! crunch ! I heard the keel of the boat 
grind on the rocks as we entered it. I fully expected 
then that the next ten seconds would find us battling 
in the whirlpool. But the combined speed of the cur- 
rent and engine bumped and forced the boat to the 
cataract's edge. As she met the shelf of rock, and 
dipped her nose over into the flying spray, Jim yelled 
"Aft!" I was back beside him almost before the word 
had sped, and "The Lone Hand" fell with a mighty 
splash into deep water. We turned as she arrowed 
out into safety, and hurled our compliments at the 
"Bitch and Pups." It^ was the most thrilling five 
minutes on the whole trip. 

V/e entered noAV a gloomy, desolate, length of river, 
with high, mysterious^banks. Hillocks and ridges of 
red sand, on which scattered pine trees grew, darkly 


green, rose here and there, adding to the monotony 
of the landscape. We were nearing the junction of the 
Wakool. We found a deserted house here, but it 
stood so lonely and ghostly, so skeleton-like with its 
bare windows, vacant as the eyes of a skull, that we 
went down below the Wakool to make camp. It was 
an eerie afternoon and an eerie spot, hinting all sorts 
of shuddersome mysteries. We felt uneasy about 
distant friends, and talked sombrely. Some accursed 
night-bird kept uttering cries, as if an infant were 
being strangled, all the time we were pitching camp 
in the after-dusk. There are places in the bush which 
seem to be haunted like this — strange, shadowed 
nature corners, over which some evil demon surely 
presides. Even in broad day, in these terror-haunted 
gullies and scrubs, one feels the goose-flesh creep 
coldly over the skin, and one's hair bristles with that 
animal instinct of danger, felt but unseen, which 
belongs to the primal days of Man. 

We boiled our noontide billy next day at the Mur- 
rumbidgee junction. Here 78 years before Sturt and his 
boat's crew first saw the Murray. The great explorer 
found the Murrumbidgee in its upper reaches "a stream 
with strong current, whose waters, foaming and eddy- 
ing among rocks, gave promise of a reckless course." 
Where it weds the Murray the "reckless" stream is 
quiet and still. It looked to me a narrow and insigni- 
ficant waterway beside the broad river we had been 
travelling. It brought me visions of those sheep- 
covered plains that spread away to Lachlan side. 
Wearily it laid its tribute of green waters, gathered 
from the east and north, at the feet of its overlord — 
the Murray. Gladly it almost seemed to hand the 
burden over to a stronger Seneschal of the Rains, that 
he finally might render full return to a blue-robed 
Caesar, waiting where the maids of Goolwa walk beside 
the Indian Sea. 

The story of Charles Sturt's expedition is about the 








finest thing in Australian history. No one can read 
the account of that 84 days' voyage to and from the sea 
in an open whaleboat. on three-quarters of a pound of 
flour a day, through territory occupied by hostile 
tribes, who had never seen a white man, without recog- 
nising Sturt's eternal claim to fame. It is a much 
nobler theme than the battle of Elands River, recently 
recommended by an English writer as a subject for 
the perpetual inspiration of Australian poets. 

The scene lay just as quiet, and almost as primi- 
tive, as on that January afternoon, when Sturt, with 
his three soldiers and four convicts — all gallant men — 
rowed out into the main stream, and the brave cap- 
tain gravely lifted his hat in response to the cheers of 
his brave little company. 

We had thought that after leaving the junction our 
passage would grow easier. Instead, the difficulties 
seemed to increase. The river was wider, but sand- 
bar after sandbar kept us in perpetual trouble. We 
would follow what seemed to be a channel, to presently 
find ourselves hard and fast on a sandspit or sandflat, 
over which the boat had to be dragged somehow. We 
lessened our draught on these shallow fiats by hanging 
out over the gunwale, and petrolling her through on 
her side. Twice in attempting this feat I rolled out 
and took a splash bath. We also tried jumping out, 
and by keeping the engine going drove our vessel 
foot by foot over the sand, jumping in again as soon as 
her bow dipped into deep water. The sandbars 
dropped precipitously, as a rule. Once we missed the 
exact psychological moment, and "The Lone Hand" 
dived gaily away without her crew. Luckily she ran 
on to another sandbank down stream, and we swam 
out and re-manned her. Had it been straight, clear 
river, we might have had a bare-footed chase after a 
runaway motor boat for miles. 

Below the 'Bidgee ducks were plentiful, and grilled 
teal and top-knot pigeon on toast also formed an item 


on our breakfast menu. Clumsy emus fled at the 
sound of the motor. Two shots from the Winchester 
had alread}' added two emu skins to the mementoes 
of the trip, and it was not fair to destroy more. The 
dry weather had brought numbers of these birds down 
to the river for water. They were perishing from 
drought out back. 

Youngeira Station is not the place a person of deli- 
cate habit would choose to spend a holiday. It would 
be too flat for a painter and too drab for a poet. But 
even at this outpost we found kindliness and cow's 
milk for our tea. The boss and his wife were away, 
and the station hands spoke dejectedly of the outlook 
for winter. The whole district was drooping for lack 
of moisture, the plains were bare of feed, excepting 
salt-bush, and the everlasting curse of rain-want was 
over everything. City dwellers, unfamiliar with the 
conditions of the West, can hardly realise how their 
back-block cousins live and remain cheerful. They 
are a lion-hearted people, and this writer devoutly 
urges the Government of Federated Australia to take 
their case in hand. Only three millions of money are 
required to lock and make constantly navigable the 
waterways of the Riverine. Australia could not pos- 
sibly lay out her money to better advantage. She 
will reap in production, in population, in wealth and 
power a thousandfold. Millions of acres of good fer- 
tile country will be rendered capable of closer settle- 
ment. Billions of cubic feet of water can be con- 
served in lakes and billabongs. and the arid interior 
converted into green fields and flowering gardens. 
Facts, figures, and statements can be piled upon one 
another to prove that this is no romance, but a living 
possibility. Royal Commissions have already col- 
lected volumes of evidence. The people of the West, 
our best, our bravest, most generous-spirited pioneers, 
are well aware of what their country can do with 
proper treatment. They wait year after year for this 


national work to begin. The question of riparian 
rights looms largely now ; it will surely grow to a cause 
of disunion in a few years. Let the Federal Parlia- 
ment lift its political soul above trivialities and attack 
this subject before any other. I have seen the Senate 
of Australia, the highest legislative body in the land, 
waste an afternoon in seriously discussing whether or 
not an operative was rightly dismissed from his 
employment ! ! But no Senator, to my knowledge, 
has yet moved the adjournment of the Chamber to call 
attention to the fact that millions of pounds value are 
wastefully going down these inland rivers yearly to the 
sea, while uncounted acres of Australian soil are just 
waiting the exercise of a little legislative intelligence to 
render them capable of carrying the vast white popula- 
tion that Australia needs, and must induce if she is 
going to hold her own among the nations of the earth. 

There is no electric-lighting plant at Euston, but 
the kerosene lamp of a bush hotel throws a dull glamor 
over the main street for a radius of fully ten yards. 
This beacon was burning for the guidance of thirsty 
strangers as we came to town. A bearded goat stared 
curiously over the bank at our coming; otherwise the 
place showed no signs of life. It is a cheerless village, 
but on going ashore we found the people just as kind 
and friendly as elsewhere in the Riverine. That night 
we again took possession of a steamer docked by the 
Murrayside awaiting a good river, and heated our billy 
of stewed black duck in the galley. The owner 
strolled down and lit up his boat from the acetylene 
gas generators on board, in order that we might meal 
comfortably. He also placed the ship's cuddy and 
its contents at our disposal, and forbade us to use our 
own groceries. Furthermore, he presented us with 
a spare gallon of motor spirit which he happened to 
have in stock, and declined payment for it. If we 
had not, out of very shame, checked the generous 
impulses of that hospitable Westerner, I believe he 


would have given us the boilers or the upper deck in 
his earnest desire to make us feel at home. 

Leaving Euston, the Murray winds away to the 
south and returns upon its course, forming a 90-mile 
bend. Kilpatrick, of "Tammit," is located in the heel 
of this bend. He came down upon us like a Highland 
chieftain next afternoon, and we bided with him that 
day and night, talking irrigation and hearing songs of 
far-ofT civilisation discoursed by phonograph. Here 
was a squatter testifying to the benefits of irrigation 
from practical experience. A few years back the 
droughts had nearly crippled him, but he took heart 
and installed a first-class pumping plant and watered 
many good acres. Now his stacks of fodder left him 
without dread of dry incoming winter or a red summer 
passed. His lucerne paddocks waved high and green, 
his stock were safe, and the braw Kilpatrick exhibited 
the confidence of a general who knows that he holds 
reserves strong enough to outmatch the enemy. 

It was a wrinkled whaler that we camped beside 
on a sandspit next night. Many Western suns had 
given him a face of parchment and simian hands. He 
scorned a covering, and slept rolled in his blue blanket 
in a hollow of the sand. A wise old vagabond was 
this who had bearded many station cooks in his day. 
Seven years had he "whaled" the Darling and the 
Lower Murray, and now he was trekking up stream 
with his dog for companion. He invested that mon- 
grel with extraordinary virtues and talents. At least, 
the animal was an accomplished thief. He looted our 
corned beef under cover of night, and adopted such an 
air of injured innocence when charged with the crime 
next morning that nobodv had the heart to kick him. 

About noon next day we passed the 750-mile tree, 
and shook hands. Half the distance had been accom- 
plished. We did not know then that we were not 
destined to finish the journey together. We ran 
down this long, tortuous bend at a speed of fifty to 


sixty miles a day. There was little life on the banks 
— no stations or settlements or houses, only a few 
camps of fishermen, with long miles of river between 

At night we bided with a peculiar company. It 
was a travelling' biograph show and "variety enter- 
tainment." Their little launch (not much bigger than 
our own) was theatre, travelling home, and circus. 
It had a canvas covering, with side blinds to drop 
when the company retired for the night. The troupe 
consisted of a man, a woman, a young half-caste 
variety star actress, a girl, and a lad, three monkeys, a 
parrot, and a performing dog. The company mealed 
in common. Quarrels between the monkeys were 
constant. The dog and the parrot hated one another 
like Cain and Abel The business manager's time was 
constantly taken up in preserving peace among his 
assorted cast. 

No advance agent travelled ahead of this unique 
company. Its entertainments were given in shearing 
sheds sometimes. It engaged halls in the towns other 
times, and put up handbills to coax audiences. It led 
a gipsy life on the rivers, drifting from one part of the 
country to another. It caught fish, shot ducks, and 
"whaled" flour and mutton from the stations of the 
Riverine. It was very Australian. 

We passed through "MacFarlane's Reef safely, 
and came down to Mildura at midday on Saturday. 
Two letters edged with mourning lay among a volum- 
inous mail ! 

Their contents burned my heart with a sadness 
deeper than it had ever known. The light had gone 
out of the day. What mattered anything? Only 
those who have lost, from that inner circle of friends 
which makes one's human world, the nearest and 
dearest, can understand. A chill wind of Death had 
scattered the white rose petals on the grass — the 
flower would bloom no more. 


We had intended to remain a week in Mildura to 
recuperate and rest, but bad news makes hateful the 
most pleasant place of abiding. We said we would 
leave on the coming Monday, and added no camp of 
ours to the scores along the river's banks. 

Meanwhile, to kill thought, I made many notes of 
this marvellous settlement. Mildura is one of the 
most interesting places in the Commonwealth. Prior 
to the year 1887 the mallee lands of Victoria were 
regarded as hopeless of cultivation. The 9000 acres 
in which the bursting fruitfulness of Mildura now 
stands were not worth five shillings an acre. To-day 
their annual rateable value is near £30,000! The 
fruit produced in one year is worth over £100,000. 
To a family of long-headed Americans — the Chaffey 
brothers — this fairy transformation of a wilderness 
into a garden is primarily due. They saw the possi- 
bilities of irrigation, and put out faith, energy and 
capital to the making of Alildura. With a strong- 
souled band of pioneers, they went out and did. The 
State Government, under agreement with the Chailfeys, 
twenty years ago set apart an area of 250.000 acres, 
under the rule of the first Mildura Irrigation Trust. 
There are in that district over 30,000 acres of irrigable 
land served by the main channels of the system, and a 
third of the area is under irrigated culture. One 
hundred and seventy aggregated miles of channel 
deliver water to the ten-acre blocks into which the land 
is subdivided. The cost of supply is met by rates 
levied by the Trust, varying from los. to 40s. per acre, 
according to class. The year is divided into five irri- 
gation periods — one in the winter months, the other 
four following each other quickly during the hot sum- 
mer days. 

Mildura forms the extreme railway point of Vic- 
toria. Its three trains a week are the slowest and 
most comfortless known. If the ghost of Stephenson 
ever found itself in a Mildura train it would be over- 

Preparing Fish lor Adelaide Market at Renmark Wharf 

Aboriginal Canoes and Fishing Gear, 


come with remorse. The journey to and from Mel- 
bourne fills the best part of two days with misery for 
the unfortunate passengers. It is the rule in Victoria 
to make every railway journey as disagreeable and 
dangerous as possible; the journeys to and from Mil- 
dura hold a bad pre-eminence for torture. 

Mildura, being the only prohibition town in these 
States, is alleged to be about the most drunken spot 
on the face of the Continent. The illicit thirst of the 
population is slaked at grog shops masquerading as 
"clubs." Entry to these clubs is readily gained. 
They are haunts of Bacchus, wherein that dangerous 
god receives his grossest form of worship on secret 
altars, thinly screened from the light of day. The 
abolition of the "club" system, and the establishment 
of well-regulated hotels, will brighten the future of 
this promising settlement. 

The irrigation districts of A'lildura and Renmark 
are now supplying the Australian markets with all the 
currants and raisins they consume, at Trust-fixed 
prices. The grape season in Mildura covers February 
and March. Then come workers from near and far 
to the ingathering. Then a-down the long, green 
rows of lexias passes a miscellaneous cohort of men 
and women, drawn from the rivers, the plains and the 
cities, by the bait of "six bob a day." Then Mildura 
pulsates, lives, lusts, loots and labors. The warm 
nights are filled with the murmur of voices, the river 
banks are reddened with camp fires, the harvest moons 
gleam on white tents of tired Bedouins of the Bush. 
Then the air is heavy with the languorous, intoxicat- 
ing perfume of grapes. A thousand trays, filled with 
fresh-cut fruit, are offered daily to the sun. The land 
grows drowsy, drenched with the wine of harvest, and 
heavy with the odors of fertility. It is like a Greek 
pastoral or a page from the Levant. At the heels of 
Labor sneaks Laziness, bent upon filching the fat 
purse of Toil. The drones and parasites of the shear- 


ing sheds appear in another field, to pursue the devious 
ways of parasites and drones the world over. 

It is a pleasant oasis, Alildura, full of garden shade, 
and odorous with the breath of olive and of vine. The 
luscious mouth of the guava offers tropical kisses to 
the lips of gourmands; the fig and pear and prune cast 
their ripeness on the fatted earth. The almond pre- 
sents a delicate Oriental sweetness to summer-tired 
visitors, and' in Spring its blossoms fall as softly on 
Australian earth as the blossoms of its parent stock 
fell upon Hebron, or in the gardens of Hauron al 

Here under the fig of Smyrna a man may sit and 
read the Arabian Nights. Or, in season, he may bathe 
his senses in the perfume of orange blossom — most 
seductive of blooms, and fitly chosen as a chaplet for 

But in this lotos land — where an acre of lemons 
yields 500 cases, and an acre of grapes five tons — we 
might not long abide. 

The Serpent of new grief blurred the face of Eden. 
I strained to open the gate of departure to go forth 
again into a wilderness of saltbush and sere sand, 
more fitted to a sad man's mood. Poor old Jim was 
worn with the eternal strain laid upon his shoulders 
by weeks of anxiety. The constant vibration of the 
engine, the continued tension, had affected his nerves, 
more than I realised at the time ; but he sympatheti- 
cally answered my call to let us both begone, and we 
set out for Wentworth. 

The heavens had poured out their rains at last in 
the North — hundreds of miles away, weeks before. 
Flood waters were coming down the Darling, and the 
yellow drainage of far-off Queensland hills and downs 
would bear "The Lone Hand" joyously to the sea. 

We got over the last sandbar a few miles from 
Mildura, and entered a broad, deeper stretch of river. 
We drove on and on, enjoying the novelty of uninter- 


rupted passage. The day had been intolerably hot, 
with that fierce, relentless inland heat that knows no 
kindly sea breezes. The sun died, with red, unlidded 
eye, glaring malice to the last. A three-quarter moon 
silvered the trees along the banks. The water around 
us seemed to have lost its clearness. 

"We must be near the junction," I called to James 
from my post forward. 

He was absorbed in his engine. It was the first 
really good, clear run we had made since Albury, now 
800 miles behind us. 

"'Not yet!" he said. "She is running lovely!" 

I kept peering at the banks for another mile or so, 
and presently descried a light and the dim outlines of 
a dwelling. 

We stopped and hailed. 

"How far are we from the junction?" 

A voice from the stoop answered back: "About a 
mile. You've passed it! That 'The Lone Hand' 
motor boat?" 

" 'The Lone Hand,' yes ! Is there a hotel in Went- 

"Four. You'll be late for tea!" 

We turned about, and entered the Darling by full 
moonlight. The current was running strong — 
another tribute of waters for the Great Overlord. It 
seemed as if we were sailing up a river of milk, deep 
and wide. 

Two steamboats, with barges wool-laden, and 
covered by tarpaulins, were tied up below the bridge. 
Smoke from their funnels told us that at last "The 
Lone Hand" had come within the radius of active 

We drove under a fine iron bridge, and made fast — 
the worst part of our long voyage was over. 

We had intended to go on again next day, but next 
day my mate fell ill. Days followed, and, his condi- 
tion showing no improvement, the doctor forbade his 


continuing the trip, Jim swore and protested against 
this, vowed that he would go on if he had to be carried 
into the boat ; but ultimately I persuaded him to return 
to Sydney, where he might get treatment that the 
strenuous West could not alTord. 

It was a sorrowful shake-hands when he weakly 
mounted the Mildura coach at last, en route for Mel- 
bourne. For weeks we had faced a tough proposition 
together, in day-shine and star-shine, sunrise and sun- 
set, burning noon and dewless eve. We had sat by 
the same camp-fire, shared thoughts and shredded 
tobacco ; and no man likes to lose a good mate, for 
mateship is more than a mere term in Australia. 
IMftanwhile I abided with John Leary, and many things 

The engine of "The Lone Hand" had to be 
refitted; the trip had to be reorganised and completed. 
I spent three weeks in Wentworth, weeks in which the 
life and character of the West crowded pictures into 
my memory. These weeks were filled v/ith kindli- 
ness, hospitality, and the wit and wisdom of my pre- 
ceptor and friend, honest John Leary, the man with 
the biggest heart and the biggest boots in all that big- 
hearted land. 

" 'Tis an act of Providince has put you down here," 
said John, in the mellifluous tongue of Tipperary. 
" 'Tis you will be the poor scholar, and me that will 
be the taycher to you. Come in now and have a 
dhrink wid me frind Dhraffin an' me frind WOodhead, 
an' be inthroduced." 

I was introduced. 

Here was Draflin, the young schoolmaster, with 
examination certilicates and degrees a yard long, 
spending his years in a purgatorial climate that the 
children of the West might have education, loving his 
work, and filling his post manfully and well. 

Here was W'oodhead, the newspaper man, Ijringing 
out his little weekly sheet in an oven of an office, and 




battling against the cold indifference of Governments 
for the crying wants of his district. Here were a 
hundred good Australians manning the outposts of 
civilisation in the face of drought, neglect, and uncer- 
tainty, and remaining hopeful and resolute withal. 

Compared with the idlers and dandies of city life, 
they stood as men of Brobdingnag above men of Lilli- 
put. They were giants towering over pigmies ; monu- 
ments overshadowing vegetables ; strength and use- 
fulness opposed to weakness and inutility. But here, 
also, there were human wreckage and failure. 

"Come to me bahr," said Leary, "an' luk at the 
wasthers an' vagabonds. 'Twill be a warnin' an' 
example to ye, me litherary Bo-hemian." 

"For twenty-foive years," said John, "I've been 
selling dhrink. 'Tis an awful thrade." 

I found that a good deal of Learj^'s profits went out 
in secret charities. I also found that when the rouse- 
about or the wanderer came to Leary "stripped" he 
never went away without a drink, a feed, and, if Leary 
liked his man, a word of curseful good advice, coupled, 
mayhap, with a small loan. It was here I met "Spare- 
me-Days," "Texas Jack," "Brummy," "Dotty," 
"Stumpy," "Peter Dawson," "Tommy the Cadger," 
and a string of identities. 

Spare-me-Days and Brummy were just finishing a 
long spree. They slept in out-rooms, tremblingly 
breasted the bar at the first of day for a reviver, and 
went to bed glorious and fightable at midnight. 

That was the morning of my arrival at the pub. 

Brummy fixed a bloodshot eye on the morning, and 
informed me that he was going to quit that day. 

Each succeeding morning for a fortnight Brummy 

avowed that he was going to quit that day. 

Every night I heard Brummy in his back room sing- 
ing the same song of seventeen verses, with which he 
lulled himself to sleep. At last he mounted a raw- 
boned, flat-footed animal that had been waiting for 



its rider somewhere, and loped off into the desert with 
a long-eared cattle dog trotting thankfully behind him. 
Brummy had gone to pick up a job on a station 200 
miles across the plains. The "civilisation" of Out- 
back would see and hear him no more for months or 

Spare-me-Days was a little old man with a bald 
head, and a skin the color of spilled blood. He kept 
constantly on rum until a blue boa-constrictor began 
to inspect him. In order to escape the attentions of 
this reptile, he walked into the river. He was swept 
down the Darling, and snagged just above the police 
magistrate's residence, and opposite Texas Jack's 
camp. Texas Jack fished him out with a wool-hook, 
and applied first aid to the drowned in the form of 
whisky, whereat he revived and proceeded to walk into 
the river again. He was still under restraint when I 
left the township. 

Dotty claimed my attention from the fact that he 
tried to sell me a bottle of strychnine one morning for 
the price of two drinks. Dotty had been poisoning 
rabbits prior to the inauguration of his spree, and the 
strychnine was his last asset. He was also a little old 
man, with the beard of a patriarch, and the face of a 
deacon gone to seed. I asked him what he was. He 
replied in polite accent and flawless English that he 
was "a mere extraneous circumstance and a wonderful 
example of unquenchable thirst." Whereat I 
chummed with Dotty, and bought him drinks, and he 
told me two romantic, wonderful stories of his career 
within the hour, distinct and contradictory in almost 
every detail ; from which I concluded that Dotty was 
an unfathomable liar. 

Nobody knew anything definite about Dotty, except 
that he had been on the Darling for over twenty years, 
and had never been sober for more than a week at a 

Texas Jack desired to buy "The Lone Hand." He 


offered me £8 los. for her every day for a week, and 
then offered to fight me for the boat and £8 los. I 
did not trade. 

The coming and going of "Greenhide Jack" inter- 
ested me during my stay in the Far West. It made a 
typical drop act to "O'Leary's Wild West Show" : — 

There was water in the Darling. The steamers 
were coming down, towing wool-barges m their wake. 
The smoke from their funnels clouded out across the 
plains by day ; at night the light from their reflectors 
lit up the river bends. The trees grew out of dark- 
ness, flashed greenly for a moment, and sank l)ank into 
shadow. Sparks from wood fires in the furnaces shot 
upwards ; yellow water curled at the bows ; the laugh- 
ter and loud talk of deck-hands, smoking on the rail, 
gave a touch of human presence to the prevailing lone- 

Greenhide Jack sat forward on the deck of the Lord 
Nelson, side-wheeler, of Goolwa, S.A. He was cut- 
ting thongs from a strip of raw bullock-hide. Most 
of his spare time, which was considerable, he spent in 
making sundry articles for use, ornament, or profit out 
of rawhide. 

You will often meet by the waterside grave, elderly 
mariners, who apparently live by fixing up models of 
full-rigged ships in narrow-necked bottles. The same 
instinct, in a changed form, prevails out West. 

Greenhide Jack could do more with a hairy pelt 
than most people. Hence his nom-de-guerre. His 
waistcoat was of cowskin, red and white ; his belt of 
plaited greenhide. His boots were laced with strips 
of the same durable material, and his kit was chiefly 
rawhide in various stages of preparation — and perfume. 

A voice rose out of the darkness aft. 

"Ja-ack !" 

"Greenhide" spat sullenly into the water, and went 
on scraping with his knife. 

The acetylene gas-burner overhead threw a squat 


shadow on the deck near the empty kerosene case on 
which he sat. 

"Jack! I say, Jack!" 

"What yer want?" growled the man with the hide. 

A portentous whisper — 

"Say, Jack, there's a dead cow floatin' just ahead. 
What about arsking the old man to stop 'er while y' 
take the 'ide?" 

"Go to !' asserted Jack from his kerosene case. 

"Y' g-ot no more sense than a native bear." He turned 
the strip of hide over, eyed it with a critical squint, and 

"No more sense than a native bear, an' not half as 

"Ja-ack !" 

The smokers on the rail stopped talking. Green- 
hide went on scraping and shaping. 

"Jack !" 

No answer. 

There was a titter forward. Someone threw a 
cold boiled potato, which caught the man on the box 
under the ear, and diffused itself clammily down his 

Greenhide Jack sprang to his feet, and lurched for- 
ward with the avowed intention of "clouting someone's 
— jaw." 

His foot slipped on the potato peel. He reeled, 
sprawled, crayfished, lost his balance, and fell, the knife 
underneath. There was a curse, a g'roan, a squirt of 
blood on the deck, and everybody, expressing sym- 
pathy and contrition, crowded round the fallen man. 

Brummy Williams, who threw the spud, "for a 
lark." as he tearfully told all hands, lifted Greenhide 
tenderly on to a bundle of loose woolpacks. Somebody 
undid the victim's shirt, and they rapidly examined the 
injury. It was a mere flesh wound in the groin, but 
Greenhide refused to believe that he had more than 
twenty minutes or half an hour to live. 


"Y' can't tell me," he groaned. "It's intarnal. 
I'll be cold as a dead sheep be the morning. This 
comes o' leavin' a good job to jine a coughin', starvin' 
pig of a " 

"Here," whispered somebody, winding a hairy arm 
gently round his neck, and placing the edge of a tin 
cup to his lips ; "drink this," 

The dying man swallowed, coughed, lifted up a 
hand, closed it firmly over the strange hand that held 
the cup, and kept it there until the half-pannikin of 
brandy was safely stowed. 

"Feel better, Jack?" asked Brummy Williams 
anxioush'. He was on his knees, staunching the 
wound with his best shirt. 

Greenhide made a pass or two in the air with his 
hands, like a man feeling about in the dark. 

"That you, Brummy?" he asked in a frog-like voice 
coming up with great difficulty from a deep well. 

"Yes, Jack." 

"You threw the spud, Brummy?" 

"Yes, Jack; but I meant no 'arm, old man." 

"No, you meant no 'arm, Brummy, but you've done 
for me — done for pore old Jack." 

"S-s-sh, Jack ; no, no, you're all right. The 
bleedin's almost stopped now." 

"Stopped," said Greenhide, in a hoarse, awful whis- 
per. "But it's bleedin' inside. I kin feel it." 

There was an uneasy rustle among the crowd. 
"Give him some more brandy," said a sympathetic 
voice. "He looks bad." 

Greenhide's head fell ominously to one side. The 
hairy arm went round the sufiferer's neck again and 
steadied it. 

"Put water in it," gasped Greenhide faintly. "Too 

He drank it slowly, with eyes closed, and lay back 
on the woolpacks. 

The Lord Nelson's paddle-wheels churned up the 


fiuod waters of the river steadily, as with a strong 
current to aid her she steamed rapidly around the 

The bargemaster in the w^ake, seeing that some- 
thing was happening aboard, shouted anxious inquiries 
at the steamboat. Presently the skipper put his head 
out of the wheel-house, and shouted back that Green- 
hide Jack had fallen on a knife and hurt himself. 

The head was withdrawn immediately, leaving the 
bargemaster in a state of nervous excitement border- 
ing on insanity. He stretched his neck and turned 
his head from side to side like a turtle, but all he could 
see was an occasional figure mysteriously humping 
along the deck with something resembling a bottle or 
a bandage in its hand. Once somebody rushed aft to 
the engine-room with a billycan for hot water. 

Everything conduced to the bargemaster's annoy- 
ance. The barge was towing at the full length of her 
line, the night was dark except for the stars, and the 
reflectors only illuminated the banks on either side of 
the channel straight ahead, leaving the group on the 
deck in exasperating half-shadow. 

In the combined endeavour to keep abreast of cur- 
rent happenings and hold the wool-laden scow on 
her course, the excited outsider presently ran his 
barge aground ; the tow-rope parted, and the steam- 
boat disappeared round a bend, leaving the ship- 
wrecked bargemaster to pour out his soul to the stars. 

The Lord Nelson came to a full-stop down-stream, 
and the man in the wheel-house added a few lurid 
items to his account on the debit side of St. Peter's 
ledger. His language was re-echoed by the crew, 
who forgot Greenhide Jack for a full hour while the 
barge was being hauled off the bank and put in tow 

Then the skipper gave the wheel to another man, 
while he v\ tiit below U) examine the invalid. 

Greenhide announced, in a faint, thick voice, that 


he did not expect to see the morning's Hght. He 
asked plaintively for more brandy. The skipper shook 
his head. He was a temperate man, who had been 
accused of belonging to a Blue Ribbon Lodge in Port 
Pirie. He had been brought up a Methodist, and 
although he backslid and used bad language on 
occasions, his early training clung to him. 

After a cursing bout, when he coined phrases that 
no bullocky might be ashamed of, he always grew 
repentant. In this state of mind he would go about 
admonishing the crew, and mentioning their souls to 
them in a way that made a man regret the possession 
of a soul. 

"No more brandy. Jack," said the skipper, sadly. 
"It's the curse of God's earth. It's a device of the 
devil to snare weak human souls." 

"But, Boss, I'm dyin'," gasped Greenhide, "the 
knife's gone right through me." 

"Then die sober. Jack," said the skipper. "Don't 
face your Creator with the smell of drink .u you." 

He stooped over the recumbent form on the wool- 
packs, and whispered — 

"Would you like me to pray with you, Jack?" 

Greenhide's disgust was too great for expression. 
"Gimme a tot of grog, first," he demanded. 

"No, Jack, not a drop; besides, the cook has 
emptied the bottle." 

"Oh, Lord," groaned Greenhide; "to let a man die 
like this. To let a man die on a raspin', rotten, 
hungry scow, run by a half-bred wowser, with a 
drunken sot of a Cockney cook that guzzles the only 
drop o' grog on the ship. How far is it to The Junc- 
tion?" he demanded, breaking off and sitting up. 

"Six hours," replied the skipper; "but — Jack " 

"Oh!" cried the patient, sinking back again, and 
groaning dismally. "Confound you an' the boat, an' 
Brummy Williams, an' the whole lot of you, I'll have 
the law on Brummy for this, anyhow." 


"Look here, Greenhide," cried the captain of the 
Lord Xelson, "it's no use exciting yourself like that. 
You'll only open up the cut again. L've got a box o' 
Cockle's pills aboard " 

" "Ave you?" said Greenhide, in a voice of unutter- 
able scorn. "Oh, 'ave you? A box of Cockle's, eh? 
A whole box? Well, you go and take 'em pills, box, 
label, an' all, an' leave me alone ! Leave me alone, I 
tell you !" he yelled hysterically. "Go to the devil, and 
leave me alone." 

The skipper shook his head, and went up to take 
the wheel again. 

From the movement of his lips, it was apparent 
that he was forgivingly pleading for the injured deck- 
hand's spiritual welfare. 

The steamer plunged on through the night hours. 
Gradually the outlines of overhanging trees became 
more definite. The stars died away, and a cold, grey 
light crept across the plain. By-and-by, at the eastern 
edge of the saltbush waste, the blood-red rim of the 
sun showed. It glided up into a large, smooth, crim- 
son-coloured globe, carrying all the fiery promise of 
another hot day. 

At this time I abided with John O'Leary, of the 
Junction Hotel. I had breakfast in the general 
dining-room, with Con Cullen, the saddler, who had 
just come up from the Ana Branch, and was starting 
his annual spree. Con wore a wooden leg. He had 
wakened me at daylight that morning stumping about 
my bedroom, emphasising each invitation to get up and 
drink by stamping his timber violently on the flooring 
boards, until O'Leary, who stood 6ft. 6in., lifted the 
little man uj) in his arms and carried him out, with the 
wooden leg pointed at the ceiling, like a signal of 






Con toyed with a plate of fried steak, while I ate 
the tough beef and drank the strong" tea of the Far 

The saddler was in the middle of a story about the 
'92 strike when the hoarse whistle of the Lord Nelson 
arrested the scattered interests of the Junction. 
People who had any business pretext knocked off what 
they were doing and began to stroll leisurely towards 
the sloping wharf. Other people, town loafers, deck- 
hands, fishermen, out-of-works, bushmen from further 
back, the casual population of a Western town, drifted 
along and joined the group. Next to a fight or a 
funeral, seeing a steamer in and out was the chief 
amusement of the place. 

The side-wheeler churned down the last reach and 
made fast in leisurely fashion. No one hurried; there 
was no display of excitement, no rush, no undue haste 
to come ashore or get aboard. The men, who looked 
more like station hands than anything else, obeyed 
their captain's few brief orders in a deliberate, friendly, 
independent manner. They were more requests than 
orders, anyway, and framed with a knowledge of 
Western temper and Western ways. 

When I went aboard with O'Leary, Con Cullen 
stumping unsteadily at our heels, Greenhide Jack was 
sitting outside the cook's galley, with his back against 
the woodwork and his hand to his side. His face bore 
an expression of cultivated pain. 

"Hullo!" said O'Leary. "What's the matter with 
you? Gripes?" 

"I'm stabbed!" 

"Stabbed! Who stabbed you?" 

"He done it hisself," volunteered the cook. 
"Brummy chucked a spud at 'im for a lark, and he 
run after Brummy an' fell on his knife. 'E bled about 
a pint, an' made out 'e was goin' to die." 


"Did I?" ejaculated Greenhide angrily. " 'Bout a 
pint, did I? 'Arf a bucket, if I bled a drop, an' this sot 
collared the only drop o' brandy aboard an' wolfed it." 

The cook retreated to his galley, and began shifting 
the pots about on the stove with a loud noise. Green- 
hide Jack, having secured an audience, held forth 
eloquently on the subject of his wound and his 

He threw out dark hints about court work and 
actions for damages, doctor's expenses, and the hos- 
pital. Every now and then he would stop to press his 
hand to his side and contort his face into an expression 
of agony suggestive of something on a Japanese vase. 

Brummy Williams could bear it no longer. He 
came amidships, and loudly, in the presence of wit- 
nesses, disclaimed all malice prepense. At the same 
time, he offered to give Greenhide Jack "half-a-quid" 
to settle the matter. After twenty minutes' argu- 
ment, in which Con Cullen acted as referee, the action 
for damages was compromised for eleven and six, the 
odd eighteen pence being immediate drinking silver. 

Greenhide rose to his feet with some show of physi- 
cal weakness, and shook hands with Brummy. 

With one arm linked in that of his late enemy, and 
one in Con's, the injured Greenhide, now visibly 
recovered, proceeded to get ashore. As his feet met 
the wharf, the skipper called out from the upper deck: 

"Hi, there, Greenhide!" 

"Wot?" replied Greenhide, facing about with a 
realisation of what was coming. 

"Going ashore?" 

"I'm goin' to consult me medical adviser, sir," 
replied the recovered Greenhide. with mock humility — 
"Doctor O'Leary, there." 

"Got your kit? No! Well, get it." 

"I'm not leavin' the boat." 


"Oh, yes, you are. I say you are !" 

"Right!" cried the whaler; "gimme me money. 'A 
week's notice or a week's screw. That's the law !" 

"Is it?" replied the skipper. "Is it, by ." The 

remembrance of early training came to him just in 
time. "Is it, you loafing, malingering, whaling — may 
God give me strength to restrain myself — you idle 
impostor, you. Didn't you come aboard at the wood- 
pile, and beg for a passage to Renmark to go grape- 

"I did," replied Greenhide Jack, "but didn't you set 
me to work — menial labour, peelin' spuds for your 
drunken cook? I'm surprised," he went on, in a voice 
of virtuous indignation, "at a man like you, that pre- 
tends to be religious an' a teetotaller, 'avin' a cook like 
that aboard yer ship. Ain't y' goin' to pay me any- 
thing for the work I done for yer?" 

"You've had three days' grub," cried the skipper; 
"that's more than enough for you. Get !" 

"Right!" said the unblushing Greenhide. "Gimme 
me swag, boys." 

He hitched his "bluey," tied with rawhide, on to 
his shoulder, and fired his Parthian shot. 

"So'long, ole church on paddle-wheels. Say, chaps" 
— he sank his voice to a loud shout, disguised as a whis- 
per — "look out for the skipper. He'll have you all 
singin' hymns before you get to Morgan. He wanted 
to 'old a prayer-meetin' over me last night, an' " 

But the captain of the Lord Nelson had slammed 
the door of the wheelhouse behind him, and was hold- 
ing on to the spokes with his teeth clenched and the 
muscles of his jaws bunched up like knotted cords. 

In this way Greenhide Jack, river-whaler, came 
ashore at the Junction. 

Out in the wide, arid West, the little things that 
civilisation considers of first importance become remote 
and trivial. Children who have never eaten penny 


ices, men who have never ridden in penny tramcars, do 
not see life with the eyes of the city. 

They do not miss the thousand "conveniences" of 
crowded centres, because they have never known them. 

Mentally and physically, they belong to another 

They are simple-minded, from the city point of 
view, but they have a wisdom of their own and a know- 
ledge of Nature that enables them to live where the 
average man of the cities would perish helplessly, 

"The hard, strenuous loife of the West," said 
O'Leary, the philosopher, "makes min. For twenty- 
foive years Oi'vc been sellin' dhrink in the West, an' 
Oi ought to know," 

"Yes," said I, "you ought to know," 

"Make no mistake," rejoined my friend of the Junc- 
tion Hotel, big-footed and big-hearted, "Oi know it's 
a cursed thrade, but if Oi didn't, another would, an' at 
laste I sell 'em clane grog." 

Which, to the O'Leary's credit, I knew was a fact. 
I also knew, though not from O'Leary himself, that 
more than a fair proportion of his gains were disbursed 
in secret charities. 

Under the rough exterior of this great, roaring Celt, 
tolerance and good nature lay hidden like the springs 
under the rock. 

He had all the Celt's native inspiration, and the 
weeks I spent at the Junction watching the wonderful 
panorama of Western life under O'Leary's tutelage 
were a better education to me than a course of Univer- 
sity lectures. 

In fact, he stood towards me as a wise professor to 
a student in his first year. 

It was O'Leary's Wild West Academy, and the 
lesson was the lesson of life. 

The arrival of Grccnhide Jack at the Junction 
became known to Scotty M'Gill about noon. The 
l)lacksmith's striker had gone out to the Barrier Ranges 


to bury his mother-in-law. With all due deference to 
filial grief, the blacksmith announced that he could 
stand no more of it. 

The striker had had two weddings and three fune- 
rals inside of six months, and he had taken a full week 
to recover after each function. 

So Scotty M'Gill, having once, on his own assertion, 
been a master farrier, was filling the vacancy — indif- 
ferently well. 

The temperature under a hot iron roof next the 
forge was trying. 

The general rainfall of the Junction is about one 
thunderstorm in two summers. 

The good seasons, when they come, are good 
beyond description. The grass billows waist-high 
across hundreds of miles of flat country, the ana- 
branches and gilgas are full of water, and the popula- 
tion is full of joy and other intoxicants — but the good 
seasons are as one in seven. 

Scotty looked out from the forge on a scene of 

There was water in the river, truly, plenty of water, 
but it was all coming from the north and west of 
Bourke, hundreds of miles away. Rain in Queens- 
land does not necessarily mean rain in New South 
Wales, and lacking an irrigation system, all that valu- 
able water was going down to Lake Alexandrina 

Scotty, sour sweat of toil upon him, sighed discon- 

In the distance a mob of goats were nibbling salt- 

Under the shade of a pepper tree two stockmen 
made mud maps on the dusty footpath, and argued 
violently about the exact location of an artesian bore 
in Central Queensland. 

The blood-red sun of morning had redeemed its 


promise, and the air was as dry and hot as if it had 
come directly from the mouth of a furnace. 

Scottv M'Gill threw down his hammer, and moved 

"Where y' goin'?" asked the blacksmith. 
"Pub," replied the striker briefly. 
"What for?" 

The blacksmith's voice was strident, with a note of 
helplessness in it. 

"Beer," replied Scotty. 

"Have one, and come back. I want to get these 
tyres fixed to-day." 

The striker made no answer. He strode on with 
determined step to O'Leary's. Jerry O'Leary was in 
the bar. Scotty put his arms on the counter, 
measured Jerry with his eye, and observed: 

"I'm workin'. Gimme a beer! Pay y' on Satur- 

Jerry, wiping a tumbler vigorously, was consider- 
ing the proposition when Greenhide Jack, with Con the 
Saddler stumping after him, entered. 

Recognition lighted Scotty's eye. 

"Why, it's Jack!" he cried; "the Greenhide. Don't 
you know me? Don't you know your ole mate, Scotty 

"Know yer!" replied Jack, extending a knotted 
hand, "I'd know yer skin if I saw it hanging on a bush. 
'Ovv goes it, Scotty?" 

"Rotten!" groveled M'Gill. "Country's gone to 
'ell. Jack. Not like it used to be in our day. What 
y' doin' now. Jack?" 

"Been whalin' the Darlin' the last six months." 

"Any good. Jack?" 

"Good !" said Greenhide, disgustedly. "Good ! 
Give us drinks, Jerry — drought, blight, starvin' sheep, 
'ungry squatters. Was the Darlin' ever any good to 
any man?" 


"I dunno," began Con Cullen. "Twenty year 
ago " 

"Twenty year ago," interrupted Greenhide. "You 
wasn't on the Darlin' twenty year ago." 

"I beg your pardon," cried Con, fetching his wooden 
stump down on the floor with a bang, and rising on it. 
"I bet you five quid I was ! I'll bet you five quid to 
five bob I was." 

"Where?" demanded Scotty and Jack together. 

"I was shearin' on Netley station," shouted the 
Saddler, "and, what's more, I'll bring ten men in this 
town to prove it." 

"Orright, orright," said Jack. "Don't get yer 
monkey up." 

But the Saddler, perceiving that he had won a point 
in argument, went on with fire in his eye. 

"An' I say that twenty year ago the Darlin' was 
good — as good as anywhere in Osstralia." 

"Orright, orright ; we ain't disputing it. 'Tain't 
any good now, is it?" 

"I dunno," replied the Saddler, resting on his 
laurels. "I wouldn't go so far as to say that. There 
ain't so much money knockin' about, nor so much traf- 
fic on the river as there was, but there's worse places 
than the Darlin'." 

"Is there?" said Jack. "Well, I don't want to see 
'em. Look at me ! Whalin' down from Bourke for 
the last six months, jest gettin' enough to keep me soul 
in me body. Get a job on a 'ole scow to work me 
passage to Renmark ; stabbed in the brisket, an' put 
ashore to starve. Gimme another rum, Jerry. Con's 
payin' fer these !" 

"How'd y' get stabbed?" asked Scotty. 

The victim shrugged his shoulders. 

"Never mind," he said, with an air of mystery. "I 
ain't sayin' anything. What y' doin' now, Scotty?" 

"Strikin' for the (adjective) blacksmith," replied 
Scotty, "an' I'm full." 


When the blacksmith arrived an hour later to look 
for his striker this was literally true. Scotty was full. 
The blacksmith sacked Scotty, had a drink, and left. 

Scotty and Jack were sittmg on a stool in a corner 
of O'Leary's bar, with the Saddler between them, voci- 
ferously arguing- about the colour of a fox-terrier once 
owned by a rabbiter at Pooncarie. 

They ignored the blacksmith completely. 

The rabbiter was dead ten years. The fate of the 
dog was uncertain. They agreed as to the wonderful 
properties of the animal, but differed on its markings. 

Three times in the next half-hour the Saddler set 
up drinks to divert a fight ; but the controversy went on 
and on, until a wild-eyed rouseabout, who was knock- 
ing down a cheque, projected himself upon the com- 
pany, and called for liquors so rapidly that they both 
went out and laid down in the sun to get calm. 

The rouseabout remained in the hotel. He was a 
lean, sunburned fellow. He wore no coat, but a blue 
shirt, with many pockets in it, a pair of tight "colonial 
tweed" trousers, a leather belt, cossack boots, and 
spurs. He was bow-legged from the everlasting 
saddle, and walked with the lurch peculiar to Austra- 
lian horsemen. He remained in the hotel. 

Three days later John O'Leary, who ruled his 
patrons with a rod of steel, mostly for their moral and 
physical good, broke the unwelcome news to Green- 
hide Jack and Scotty M'Gill that they could get no 
more liquor and no more credit at his establishment. 
They could take one bottle for the track, and go. 
Scotty had been hanging round the town for too long, 
and Greenhide was no acquisition at any time. 

These facts John stated in his firm, forcible fashion, 
and his voice was audible as far as the lockup. 

They, accepted the fiat with mournful, curseful 
resignation. It was the law of the West, and they 
knew and recognised it. 




For an hour or more these two typical whalers — 
Scotty, grey-haired, and almost venerable-looking, and 
Greenhide with a face wrinkled like a dried plum — 
consulted, devised, and argued under the shade of a 
pepper tree. 

We viewed their departure from the hotel verandah 
— a casual outgoing common to the every-day life of 
Outback, but to the stranger full of uncouth pathos. 

Before the door of the Junction Hotel a grey, heat- 
parched plain spread away to the arid heart of Aus- 
tralia — a clump of stunted box trees, a bare stretch of 
level country, with scattered areas of saltbush, another 
clump of dusty timber, another stretch of plain and 
saltbush, and so on. No cloud in all the sky, no sound 
in the still, hot air. No life except a distant mob of 
sheep moving across the plain in a white dust, or a 
thirsty emu loping along with awkward strides towards 
the river, like a drunken doormat on stilts. The pre- 
vailing impressions were heat, silence, immensity. The 
mind intuitively felt the distances beyond that far-off 
rim of plain. Out there Burke and Wills staggered, 
thirst-stricken, to doom. Out there Leichhardt 
vanished. Out there, under the wind-driven sand, 
under the shade of the myalls, nakedly under the sky, 
lay the bones of lonely dead men with mouldering 
swags and perished water-bags beside them. The 
heat was all-pervading, ever present, but still it was a 
dry, healthy heat whereby no disease germs generated ; 
a heat in which men might still enjoy their food and 
move about freely. The woodwork of the buildings, 
the iron roofs, the furniture radiated heat, and where 
the air stirred it seemed to disturb new centres of 
warmth. In this landscape two figures moved slowly. 
Greenhide Jack and his mate were taking the track. 
Each of them was going through the horrible process 
of suffering a recovery. Across their backs, from 
right shoulder to left loin, was hung a swag. One 
man carried a blackened billycan, the other a waterbag. 


They faced the verandah as they hoisted their 
swags, and said : 


The action was neither friendly nor aggressive ; just 
a mechanical phrase of courtesy, which might equally 
have been followed by a curse or a word of thanks. 
Neither would have mattered to anybody, because 
nobody was concerned. 

I watched the figures of Scotty and Greenhide plod- 
ding on across the plain, growing smaller and smaller, 
until they were dancing like marionettes in the mirage. 

Outside the world that these tramps knew was the 
crowded world of civilisation, with its three-minute 
tram services and latest editions, its lighted streets and 
frequent ham-and-beef shops. Their crude habits and 
coarse amusements called for none of these things. 
Water, matches, tea, tobacco, mutton, and flour, and a 
few days' work now and again to buy boots, breeches, 
beer, and an occasional cotton shirt. These primal 
necessities satisfied, the life they led was good enough 
for them. 

As the two "whalers" went finally over the rim of 
Outback I turned to O'Leary. 

"A queer outfit, that, John," I said. 

"A little picture av the West," replied O'Leary; 
"but, remimber, not all av it. Don't be judgin' the dog 
be the tail entoirely, me frind. The wurruld to the 
loikes av thim without grog wud be loike a house with- 
out flures — it 'ud howld nothing." 

"The life suits them." said I. 

"To a Tay. me frind. Isn't it as plain as the nose 
on your face that they're thrue Bohemians," replied 
John of the Junction, with a dry smile. 

The lower river was open, and passenger steamers 
were running from Morgan to Wentworth twice a 
week. When the Ruby's whistle was heard below 
the junction, the town would turn out and stroll 
down to the sloping wharf where the steamboats 






berthed. Presently, churning round the bend, yel- 
low river waters frothing at the bow, and her side 
wheels stroking steadily, would appear the South Aus- 
tralian packet. The river fleet makes a little com- 
merce of its own. It is another life and another 
world, unique in Australia. The Gem, the largest 
vessel on the river, is a craft of some pretensions. She 
is built somewhat on the plan of the Mississippi packet, 
with three spacious decks, saloons, smoke-rooms, com- 
modious cabins, arid accommodation for a hundred pas- 
sengers. Unfortunately, the Gem, drawing four feet 
of water, can make her regular running, between Mor- 
gan and Mildura, only from June to December; she is 
laid up the rest of the year. I found her empty and 
cold, like an untenanted villa, at Morgan when I 
arrived. The river traffic languishes, through uncer- 
tainty of water ; but there are many comfortable boats 
fitted up for the passenger trade, carrying also goodly 
cargoes from town to town. 

In years gone by, when the squatter was lord of 
all he surveyed, the principal cargoes on the Murray 
on the upstream trips were stores and station requi- 
sites, and wool on the homeward journeys. All this 
has been altered. The Chaffey Bros., George and 
William, enterprising Americans, started a new era 
when they established the irrigation colonies at Mil- 
dura and Renmark. Having passed through many 
vicissitudes and troublous times, these settlements 
stand to-day as a monument to the courage, skill and 
foresight of their founders. Years later came the 
settlements started by the Kingston Government, on 
the banks of the Murray, which were intended to solve 
a serious unemployed trouble. Although they cost 
the State of South' Australia a considerable sum of 
money, their indirect benefit in settling people on the 
banks of the Murray cannot be set down in figures. 
Pioneer German farmers took up their dwellings on 
the scrub-lands, and proved the productiveness of the 


country from a wheat-growing point of view. Loxton, 
which not many years ago consisted of a single hut, 
is now a flourishing township. All the time the swamp 
lands are being reclaimed, and new dairy farms 

The result is that with wool, wheat, fruit, dairy 
and other produce the trade has grown far beyond 
the dreams of early pioneers. Those settlers who 
depend on the Murray for the carriage of their goods 
were beginning to fear that they would not be 
adequately catered for, when, a little over a year before 
this book was due for publication, the Gem Navigation 
Coy. Ltd. was formed. Its promoters are filled with a 
great faith in the potentialities of the Murray. From 
a carrying and passenger point of view, the future of 
the river is assured. Since its foundation the company 
has purchased several vessels of the type most suitable 
for low-water conditions. Without these it is impos- 
sible to cope with the wheat trafific on the Lower 

At the present moment the Gem Navigation Com- 
pany has a fleet of 40 odd boats of various types. The 
passenger steamers which previously belonged to those 
old identities of the river, Messrs. King and Landseer, 
were of the deep draught kind. It has been found 
necessary to modernize the river craft. A consider- 
able amount of money has been spent in bringing the 
Gem and Ellen up to proper standard for winter trips, 
when there is a plentiful supply of water, but as they 
are of too deep draught for anything below 6 feet, the 
Company has built new boats for the passenger trade. 

The Marion is the first of these vessels. On her 
first trip she carried a Parliamentary Party of 50 from 
Goolwa to Mildura and back to Morgan, a distance of 
1000 miles. The Ruby, after having new machinery 
of the latest description installed, is being put into 
commission. The Company has purchased a number 
of vessels of the lightest draught, and is building 


others. It is the intention of the Gem people to con- 
struct vessels with refrigerating chambers, to carry- 
fruits, dairy produce, fish and other perishable goods. 
They will be of the latest type and of the lightest 
draught. These vessels cannot be built for less than 
£io,QOO each. Full enquiries are being made in 
America, England and elsewhere as to the most suit- 
able vessels for the Murray and its tributaries. 

The value of the Gem fleet at present is between 
£60,000 and £70,000. It can be seen that this Com- 
pany, of which Mr. A. Leishman is the Manager, is 
fully alive to the importance and future magnitude of 
the river trade. When everything is in full swing, the 
Company will have a fleet of steamers and barges 
which will be able to cope with the trade for years to 
come, and satisfy every requirement of the fast- 
increasing army of settlers on the banks of the 

All the way along the river from Mildura to Lake 
Alexandrina one could see what a happy hunting 
ground the Murray might be made for tourists. Of 
course, few people could spare the time to take it on 
as the writer did, from Albury, nor would it be advis- 
able for the average pleasure-seeker to go steeplechas- 
ing in a motor boat over red-gum logs and immemorial 
snags on the upper reaches. 

But where it broadens, by Mildura, adown that 
wondrous sweep and curve of clearer river, which is 
churned by the paddle-wheels of Lower Murray 
steamers, the tourist can pass a pleasant and instruc- 
tive holiday. 

A reference to the guide-book shows that the Gem 
Navigation Company Limited of Adelaide, in conjunc- 
tion with the South Australian Railway Department, 
is offering facilities for visitors who desire to make an 
inland voyage on the waters of the Mississippi of 

Since his first series of Murray articles was pub- 


lished in the Lone Hand, the writer spent two pleasant 
weeks aboard the S.S. "]\Iarion," one of the Gem 
Company's passenger steamers. 

The voyage, which extended from Goolwa to JMil- 
dura, enabled him to view the river under different 

Like other vessels of the Gem fleet, the "Marion" 
has been fitted up for the conveyance of passengers in 

The "Marion's" cook was an enthusiast. His 
ambition in life seemed to be that everyone on board 
should surround at least five elaborate meals a day. 

The boat was provided with comfortable two-berth 
cabins, hot and cold water baths, and smoking-room, 
and had accommodation for about eighty people. 
Other vessels of the Gem fleet carry more. 

Electric light was installed throughout. The dining 
saloon, with its piano, pictures, and crimson plush 
upholstery, was reminiscent of a modern ocean-going 
steamer, but the seasick traveller was conspicuous by 
his or her absence. 

Unlike the little "Lone Hand," the "Marion" did 
not tie up to the bank at sunset. 

With her great electric reflectors lighting up the 
drooping trees along the Murray's banks, she churned 
on steadily at night. 

Every mile was just as full of interest as the down- 
river journey in the motor boat had proved, and it 
must be confessed that the surroundings were more 

There w^ere places, too, where a sportsman might 
have pulled off and spent a few days, places where 
wildfowl abounded, and the good fat codfish had his 

I can imagine nothing more pleasant than a trip up- 
river in one of these steamers. 

If the journey were undertaken in the shooting sea- 
son, with a few days' sojourn by one of the back- 


waters, or adjacent to some of the lagoons, the heart 
of the sportsman would surely be made glad. 

For along the Lower Murray the fatted black duck, 
the teal, and the wood-duck, with many and varied 
wildfowl, abide. 

Here, too, one gets the top-knot pigeon, the bus- 
tard, and many another good game bird of the Bush. 

For my own part, I would ask for nothing better 
now than a two or four weeks' holiday along the 
Murray. Even as I write I can see, in fancy, the 
mottled wood-duck flying ahead of the steamer as she 
rounds the bends. I can hear the black swan piping 
at nightfall from the swamps. 

In imagination, once more it is moonlight on the 
Murray. Steadily the steamer pounds her way up- 
stream. The wood sparks pour out of her low funnel. 
The trees on either bank, lit up by the headlights, come 
greenly out of shadow, and go back into shadow in her 

The cool, clear night air is good to breathe; the 
stars overhead, in a sky of darkest blue velvet, are 
good to see. 

All around lie the great impressive Australian 
plains, whitened by the moonlight. The saltbush 
gleams like frosted silver — the moon upon the saltbush 
is worth a lover of the beautiful travelling many miles 
to see. The frogs are croaking in the lignum swamps. 
From the lower decks comes a murmur of voices. 
Somewhere below a deck hand is playing the concer- 
tina. Anon a hoarse whistle is heard, and another 
steamer comes into view around the bend, salutes with 
her siren, and passes on into the night. . . . 

To them who would see Australia in an aspect new 
and strange, but infinitely pleasant and interesting, I 
would say, "Take a holiday on the Murray." 

And if any reader of this book is sufficiently inter- 
ested, and contemplates an inland voyage, he or she 
can obtain fuller information from the Director of the 


Tourist Bureau in Adelaide — who lives to make people 
happy — or from the manager of the Gem Navigation 
Company, in the same hospitable city. 

The arrival and departure of the steamer in Went- 
vvorth are made popular functions. The Youth and 
Beauty of the Bush turn out gaily, and the wharf is as 
much a trysting place as the railway stations of our 
inland towns. Passengers crowded on the upper deck 
shout greetings or good-byes to their friends ashore, 
and the eternal feminine, with the eternal tears and 
the eternal pocket handkerchief, is ever present. 
These boats are not run in man-of-war fashion, nor do 
they always run to time; but a voyage down the Mur- 
ray is pleasant and interesting to tourists with ambi- 
tions to behold other phases of Australian life. 

When the down-river boats arrive at night the 
wharf is lit with flare lamps, and the great reflectors 
of the ship are kept burning that the hands may have 
light to discharge the cargo. It is a busy time, but 
the river stevedore moves about in much more leisurely 
fashion than the lumper on Sydney wharves. He is 
no hustler, but a gentle, unmethodical worker, who 
finds time for chafli^ and raillery and frequent spells. 
Mostly he wears whiskers, and it takes several of him 
a very long time to get a piano case ashore. His cap- 
tain and officers wear no uniforms, and issue com- 
mands in friendly, familiar tones. The gap between 
boss and man is narrowed inland. The life of a river 
stewardess is not made gruesome by the sea sickness 
of her women charges, and the steamboat cook never 
receives back his dishes untouched. 

I was taken out by patriotic townsmen to view the 
Wentworth irrigation area, a small section set apart 
by the N.S.W. Government on the western bank of the 
Darling, and let out on thirty years' leases in allot- 
ments of five to thirty acres, under a water rate of £i 
a year per acre, and an annual rental of from is. 3d. to 
IS. 6d. an acre. Here, in the heart of apparent desert, 


was another oasis growing lucerne four feet six inches 
in height, colossal melons, and pumpkins of fabulous 
girth, oranges in profusion, grapes, currants, and grain 
crops. Outside the fences lay bare saltbush plains, 
capable also of yielding abundant harvests under simi- 
lar treatment. If a callous Administration could for- 
get provincial jealousies, and spend a petty £7000 in 
deepening the Ana Branch, a natural channel which 
debouches into the Murray a few miles below Went- 
worth, an area of 250,000 acres, suitable for irrigable 
farms, would be converted into a national asset at 
once. The red, sandy loam of these districts is ren- 
dered pre-eminently fertile by the simple application 
of water. The misguided Solons who assert that 
there is no country inland capable of close settlement 
are recommended to a closer study of facts. One 
station alone holds 700,000 acres, which, divided into 
1040-acre blocks, would, it is asserted, support 600 
families. Out here on the Edge of Things, areas of 
Crown lands, greater than German principalities, are 
occupied on pastoral leases at a nominal rental of a 
farthing per acre a year. Thirty acres of these lands, 
under irrigation, would carry an Australian house- 
hold; and 2500 acres are sufificient to make dry farming 
profitable. Canada and the United States, by making 
their agricultural lands available for settlement, have 
leaped ahead in the race of nations. Australia, by 
following a policy of alienation, stands still an 
unpeopled continent, offering the loot of another Peru 
to an Asiatic Pizarro ! A gentle Socialistic people 
were the ancient Incas, as history tells, with a fair sys- 
tem of local government and no firearms. History 
has a beastly habit of repeating itself where similar 
conditions obtain. 

With a fresh supply of necessaries, and Melville 
John Gilligan to tend the motor, "The Lone Hand" 
was ready to continue her voyage. The 23rd of April, 
1908, was clear, cloudless, and promising. The good 


friends I had found in Wentworth assembled on the 
river bank to say farewell. I left that remote town 
with a fuller, wider knowledge of the ^^'est, a deeper 
insight into national problems, a still higher estima- 
tion of the sterling qualities of the Man Outback. A 
broad, yellow river, free from snags and reefs and bars, 
carried me on its rapid current through the heart of a 
great continent. On either hand lay boundless plains, 
over which the sun moved slowly in a blue archway, 
unbroken by any cloud. 

Once again, as night fell, the little motor boat 
turned towards a sand strip, and the camp was pitched 
— nearer the bank than usual. Once again the wood 
fire burned, and the gridiron gave up its incense of 
grilled chop. 

Melville John Gilligan was twenty-two, and of an 
adventurous spirit. He was a youth of few words, 
wore an inappropriate hard hat, and served me duti- 
fully and well. 

The nights had grown colder, the mornings crisp 
and sharp. I lingered over the breakfast fires, and 
spent the forenoons in an overcoat, with my toes to 
the cylinder of the engine. An out-station at the Ana 
Branch was the first place of habitation to present 
itself. I went ashore and conversed with an unimag- 
inative station-hand while he skinned and cut up a 
sheep. The conversation was mainly on my side. 

"Good-morning," I began pleasantly. 

The man favored me with a reluctant nod. 

"How far is it to Morna?" 

He went on with his wairk, plying a very sharp 
knife with great dexterity. 

I repeated my question, loudly. 

"Dunno." said the man, "never bin there." 

"Can I buy a loaf of bread here?" 


"Haven't you got any bread?" 

"Naw; ain't baked." 


More knife play. 

"Can I get any bread at Morna?" 


Slish-slash of knife over the hanging carcase. 

"Know if I can get any bread anywhere?" 


"Dry country, this?" 

Several scientific cuts, which relieved the skin. 

"Dry country!" I repeated. 

"Dunno. Yairs." 

"Say," I cried, determined to drag him out some- 
how, "did you read yesterday's papers?" 

"Naw! Don't get 'em." 

"Then you didn't hear the news?" 

"Naw. What's that?" 

Knife still working rapidly. 

"James the Second is dead." 

"Naw. What of?" 

"Barcoo rot!" I announced, and left him cutting up 
his sheep. 

No bread was obtainable at Morna. The presiding 
satrap, whose out-station is fifty miles from headquar- 
ters, declined my polite request, and read me a super- 
fluous lecture on labor conditions. He said if he gave 
or sold bread like that his cook would make trouble. 
I think he wanted to impress me with the idea that 
the democratic policy followed by my proprietary was 
ruining the country. I left him standing in his delight- 
ful station garden, amid his nicely-cropped hedges and 
gravel walks and refreshing blooms — complete Master 
of the Wilderness. Lower down the river a mere 
struggling commoner replenished the bread bag of 
"The Lone Hand" with a loaf, and absolutely declined 

Morna, mail change, is an old brick place, which 
had once been an hotel. It stands on a red sandhill, 
sparsely covered with stunted saltbush, and presents a 
picture of perfect desolation. But the man who had 


his solitary existence on that barren sandhill told me 
he didn't feel the least bit lonesome. He had lived all 
his life in the bush, and had never seen a town bigger 
than Wentworth. 

We camped at Ned's Corner that night. This 
station (run by an Adelaide syndicate, I understand) 
is located on the edge of a great plain, with a blue line 
of mallee scrub bounding its further distance. 

Again I wooed a station cook ; but he was cold, and 
declined to sell me bread. The Bread Quest along 
this track developed into a sort of modern pursuit of 
the Holy Grail. We were out of the region of bake- 
houses, and for the making of damper we had no time. 

Next morning w^e spoke the Marion, of Wentworth. 
She had been down to Goolwa for overhaul, and was 
on her w^ay home. The Marion lay alongside the 
bank, with her captain and crew^ ashore, cutting fen- 
ders. The owner's daughters, returning from a holi- 
day in Adelaide, commanded the ship. They begged, 
those gracious Australian girls, for just a little run in 
"The Lone Hand," that they might have to say after- 
w^ards they had been in the now celebrated motor boat 
which went from Albury to the sea. The veriest 
pirate that ever scourged the Western Main might not 
refuse a beauty call like this. WMth Melville John 
for chaperone, I petrolled a joyous company of ladies 
round several bends. 

The Alarion was fitted up for trade. She was, in 
fact, a big floating general store, freighted, not with 
beads and red parasols and striped prints, but with all 
the every-day requirements. She traded the Darling 
to \\'ilcannia, and should be a profit-maker for her mer- 
chant owner in Wentworth. 

Lignum and red gum, billabong and lagoon went 
by, with mobs of duck to break the monotony of 
things, till w:e reached Lake Victoria Station. Here 
I held interesting converse with Keela Koola — an 
aboriginal stockman. Keela came from Moonta, in 



Keela Koola. 



South Australia, where his twenty-one years had been 
mostly passed. He was almost the first full-blooded 
native I had seen on the Murray. He told me confi- 
dentially that "drink was a damn-fool game, an' he 
didn' lak it." His joy at being photographed with a 
view to publicity was beautifully childish. 

Below Lake Victoria lies the most picturesque 
scenery of the Murray. Here rise wonderful banks a 
hundred feet above the river. Red, white, and brown, 
these clay hills stand like the minarets and battle- 
ments of a Moorish city. One almost expects to 
see white-turbaned horsemen in scarlet cloaks gallop- 
ing across their summits ; to hear a fanfare of trumpets, 
and catch an echo of lutes from distant miradors. The 
monotony of flat grey banks was henceforward relieved 
every few miles by these painted clififs, overhanging 
the deepening reaches of a broader river. 

Cal-lal is the last outpost of settlement in New 
South Wales, and the last settler's name is MacGregor. 
Cheers for MacGregor! He has held the utmost 
corner for twenty-five years. The sandy ridges of his 
io,ooo-acre selection afford good grass for his sheep in 
fair seasons, and on the flats by the river he is making 
headway with irrigation. A fair-spoken man was Mac- 
Gregor, the last pioneer of the Mother State. He gave 
us "Good luck" as we petrolled away from his holding 
towards the South Australian Border. 

The legend, "Police Station," was nailed to a tree 
overhanging the water, a little further on : the last 
N.S. Wales official represented law and order. 

It was Saturday afternoon as we drew near to the 
Border line. The sun was setting behind a red sand- 
hill on the Victorian corner. In the cities crowds were 
going their merry ways, coming from football matches, 
returning home from yacht races, filling trains and 

Stillness reigned over the Bdrder. Wide, unpeopled 
distances spread to all the compass points. In the 


sunset dark pines stood out like sentinels upon the 
red sandhill, the last sunra3's burnishing their tops till 
they shone like helmets of brass. A couple of grace- 
ful black swans swam ahead of the boat, parting the 
water with their breasts in all the stateliness of a 
Venetian gondola. Cockatoos screamed over the high 
timber, and wood-ducks left the banks in hurrying 
mobs. It was better out there than in the bustling 
town that Saturday afternoon. 

"The Lone Hand" left N.S. Wales and Victoria, and 
entered the territory of South Australia with loud war- 
whoops. The Custom House here was occupied by a 
German farmer — the abolition of Border duties had 
rendered it no longer an official dwelling. 

In the bush are all trades, occupations, nationalities. 
Our evening neighbors were two rabbiters, working 
slowly upstream from Renmark, where they had put 
in a few weeks at grape-picking. Xomadic workers 
like these drift to and fro with the seasons. The next 
January harvest would perhaps find them down about 
Swan Hill or Mildura. They would fill in the months 
fishing or trapping till shearing commenced in August; 
get a few weeks' work at the sheds, go grape- 
picking again, cadge tucker, and live On johnny cake 
and rabbit during the bad times. They are a careless, 
happy-go-lucky crowd. Although most of their con- 
versation is made up of tirades against Governments 
and complaints about their cruel, hard lot, not 
one in a hundred of them would live any other 
life if it were offered him. The rabbiters' boats 
were tied up to the bank. One of these men 
was squat, grumpy, and morose. His language 
was a series of grunts. The other man was 
lean, tall, loquacious. They sat in the firelight, munch- 
ing mutton and johnny cake, and throwing occasional 
scraps to a wire-haired mongrel, squatted on its 





haunches at the stout man's elbow. That unlucky dog 
got his foot caught in a rabbit-trap later in the even- 
ing, and his yells wakened all the echoes of the Border. 

When the meal was over, the stout man, growling 
and grunting, lighted a hurricane-lamp and went off 
into the darkness with a string of rabbit-traps over 
his shoulder. 

The lean man heaved a sigh, lit a black pipe, struck 
another match, and commenced to rummage in his 
boat. He came up the bank presently with a leather 
instrument-case under his arm, settled himself by the 
fire, carefully drew out a banjo, and fooled awhile with 
the strings. After a look round, and a look up, the 
lean man began to play. I listened, first diffidently, 
then with interest, finally with enthusiasm ; the lean 
man was master of his instrument — one of the best 
banjoists I have ever heard. 

Seated on a log by the fire, with the stars overhead, 
the river flowing at his feet, and the bush before him, 
the lean man played on. Instrument and music har- 
monised with the surroundings. The furthest corners 
of three States echoed back old familiar folk-lore tunes. 
In the smoke of the camp-fire I saw pictures — kilted 
Highlanders marched, with their pipers before them, 
down mossy gorges and across fields of heather ; 
Rabbie Burns rolled home again from a late carousal ; 
under an Irish hedge crouched a band of rebels, await- 
ing the rising of the moon, and in their hats they wore 
the green ; pig-tailed seamen trained the guns of 
Nelson's ships upon the high hulls of France and 
Spain; General Sherman, on his charger, rode ahead of 
a gaunt, iron-faced squadron of men in blue; through 
a wide ballroom fair-haired couples drifted sensuously. 
Peasants and princes, lovers, brigands, gypsies, beg- 
gars went by. All the gardens of romance, of which 
music holds the key, that lean rabbiter opened to a 
lonely audience of two — coaxed from the strings of a 
common banjo by his wizard hands. 


He put the instrument down at length, relit his 
pipe, and looked across the fire with a smile. 

"I used to play the d d banjo once," he said. 

"So I should think," I replied. 

"Played all over the world in my time — London 
theatres, South Africa, States, India, Australia. I've 
seen some good times ; seen times when thirty quid a 
week wasn't enough for me." 

"Couldn't stick to it?" I ventured. 

The lean man laughed. "Could you?" 

"Haven't, so far." 

"Nor won't," he asserted. 

"Why?" I questioned. 

Again the lean man laughed. 

"You wouldn't be out here to-night if you could. 
D it, man, you've got it in your blood — like me." 

"Got what in my blood?" I inquired. 

He stood up, waved his hand towards the forest, 
pointed to the river and the stars. "All that," he 
replied ; "all the things that draw us away from the 
gaslight and the girls, from houses in rows and streets 
in straight lines, and level, easy ways, to eat corned 
beef and bread and jam, drink black tea, and sleep in a 
blanket on the ground. Good-night, mates; I'm going 
to bed." 

He had built himself a breakwind of boughs beside 
a log. He spread out a couple of sheepskins, woolly 
side up, rolled himself in an ancient travelling rug, 
and, with his banjo case under his head, presently 
began to snore. 

The other man came back with a string of dead 
rabbits, cursed his mate for a useless loafer, pegged 
out the wet skins, crawled into his boat — which was 
partly covered over with a strip of calico — and left 
me to digest the lean man's prophecy. The dog lay 
beside the fire, licking his injured foot and whining. 
The distant whoot of a night howl, the splash of a fish, 
were the only other sounds upon the Border. 


I wakened again by starlight, and roused Melville 
John Gilligan. We breakfasted by firelight, and set 
out with daybreak. Mists rose gradually and dis- 
closed a noble river, with finger posts directing navi- 
gation into the right channels. 

South Australia has a proper appreciation of her 
splendid waterway, and is doing her best — the best of 
a poorer sister — to develop its trade. 

One fact occurred to me very soon after the "Lone 
Hand" entered South Australian waters — the Govern- 
ment of that country valued the great river sufficiently 
to keep it clear of snags. 

Long before the "Lone Hand" reached Renmark, it 
was made plain that the matter of inland navigation 
was considered, down on the Lower Murray, to be one 
of no small importance. 

At Renmark, for the first time, I came to seriously 
consider the complicated but interesting question of 
riparian rights. 

This has now become the burning question on the 
Lower Murray. 

Before I terminated my long river journey below 
Murray Bridge, I was convinced that, if ever the har- 
mony of the Federation is to be broken, if there is ever 
to be a civil war in Australia, the waters of the Murray 
are more likely to be the cause of the rupture than 
any other quarrel that can apparently arise out of 
existing or future conditions. 

The subject, apart from its constitutional interest, 
is of sufftcient importance to be approached seriously. 
Three Australian States are immediately affected by 
the Murray Waters question. Unless these States 
can strike some common basis of agreement in regard 
to their individual rights and privileges, the disputes 
which have been going on for years will be accentu- 
ated in the future. They are prolific of ill-feeling, and 
pregnant with disaster. 

The old system of water-waste in Australia is 



definitely at an end. All the States concerned now 
realise the splendid asset the Murray System forms 
in the great national schemes of irrigation which are 
meditated by their various Governments. 

The irrigable soils of the Lower Murray Valley are 
said to be the richest of all, inasmuch as the silt and 
wash of ages have come down to them from the 
immense drainage area that extends over the greater 
part of New South Wales and Victoria, and from Char- 
leville and Augathella, round to Toowoomba and 
Warwick, in Queensland. 

South Australia, moreover, possesses a quarter of 
a million acres of reclaimable swamp lands along the 
Murray, as rich as the alluvial of the Nile or the 

These swamps, drained or undrained, are free from 
fevers, and as healthy as the plain country around 

South Australia's eastern boundary lies below the 
junction of the Darling with the Murray, and the 
Darling is the last great tributary which the parent 
river receives. 

Now, if the flow of the river were to be interrupted 
beyond that border line — and hundreds and hundreds of 
miles of streams lie beyond the border — thousands of 
people in South Australia who are already depending 
for their existence on the regular and even flow of the 
Murray — would be utterly ruined. 

The Government in Adelaide is keenly alive to the 
value of its irrigable lands. The State, in many dis- 
tricts, suffers from an uncertain rainfall ; but in the 
Murray there lies not only a splendid source of water 
supply, but a broad highway through and beyond the 
State into the interior of a country destined to carry 
the largest population in Australia. 

To apply the precious water, which South Aus- 
tralia receives from the far-off catchment areas of the 
Murray, for the support of many new village settle- 


ments, to establish thereat hundreds of new Australian 
homes, and convert thousands of idle acres into 
wealth-producing areas, is now the declared policy of 
the State. 

But if either, or both, of the States up-stream were 
to cut off the flow of the river, or so reduce it as to 
leave an insufficiency of water in dry seasons for the 
requirements of the Lower Murray, the people down 
there might be brought to ruin and despair. 

One can imagine a situation such as this becoming 
so intolerable that the country affected would be 
tempted to resort to force. One can see why the ques- 
tion of storage and delivery must be subject to an 
agreement of the three partners in receipt of goods. 
One begins to understand, moreover, why the argu- 
ment must be concluded now. In fifteen or fifty years 
from now, if it is not settled, the Commonwealth is in 
for very serious trouble. 

But the Federal spirit will doubtless be strong 
enough and reasonable enough to avert a certain 
future trouble by effecting a present agreement that 
will ask from each of the partners according to his 
capacities, and render to each according to his needs. 

For the filling up of its open spaces Australia cannot 
afford to wait until it is too late. "Effective occupa- 
tion" must take place if the white owners of this con- 
tinent are to make good their title. Nowhere can 
closer settlement — which is "effective occupation" — 
be carried out to a greater extent than along this 
great river system of the interior. The three States 
can all benefit, but they must come to an early under- 
standing, which will clearly and for all time establish 
their mutual and individual rights to the use of the 
water that flows into the Murray. 

Without doubt, there is a sufficiency of rainfall 
over the Murray watershed, and on its effective catch- 
ment area, to meet all requirements, if the water is 
mutually conserved and fairly distributed. 


The whole question, therefore, becomes ultimately- 
one of engineering, and engineering nowadays is 
reduced to a simple matter of cost. 

To w*hat extent and at what cost the requirements 
of both navigation and irrigation can be met by stor- 
age is one of the questions on which the engineers of 
the three States are to report to the Premiers by the 
end of 191 1. 

A way out of the riparian rights dispute may be 
found in some harmonious agreement between the 
States concerned, whereby the cost can be charged in 
proportion to the delivery. Each State would, like 
the householder, pay according to the reading of his 

For many years past the Murray waters have been 
a bone of civil contention between South Australia and 
Victoria. The institution of an extremely vigorous 
irrigation policy by the latter State has been the occa- 
sion of much misgiving and no little reasonable anxiety 
to the former. 

New South Wales, prior to the commencement of 
her Burrenjuck storage and Northern Murrumbidgee 
irrigation scheme, had little at immediate issue ; but 
her attitude has been, and is, one of seeming fairness to 
South Australia. 

I have rejoiced many times that I did not go into 
the political history of the Murray until the motor 
voyage was over. The weight of Blue Books which 
have accumulated on this subject would have been too 
much for a small craft. One Royal Commission report 
alone runs into 359 foolscap pages. 

Conferences and Commissions have taken place 
since 1886. But the question is not yet settled. 

It may be settled this year or next, or it may not. 
If it is not. there is ultimately going to be war of some 

Nothing is surer than this. The sooner the people 


of Australia realise it, the better for the whole Com- 

After the report of the Interstate Commission of 
1902 it was thought that an agreement would be 
reached, on the lines of a fair delivery to South Aus- 
tralia, that the rivers would be locked, and storage 
reservoirs constructed by the three States. The report 
of the Commission, however, was not adopted. 

In 1908 an agreement was drawn up, on the lines of 
resolutions come to at the Premiers' Conference of 
[906. and was subscribed to by the 'heads of the States. 

For the sake of the Federation, it is to be regretted 
that this agreement was not carried into effect. 

This Premierial understanding, which was to have 
been ratified by a simultaneous Act of each of the three 
Parliaments, provided that an Interstate Commission 
of Control should be appointed, that the diversions (for 
irrigation, etc.) by New South Wales and Victoria 
should be in proportion to the contributions by those 
States, and that, "for all time," 60,000 million cubic 
feet per annum should be allowed to South Australia, 
subject to a pro rata reduction if the total flow proved 
less than 321,000 million cubic feet for the year. 

The construction of Lake Victoria storage, and a 
complete system of locks, was to be immediately pro- 
ceeded with, at the joint cost of the three States. 

The agreement, apparently a fair and honorable 
one, was loyally accepted by the Government, and 
would, in due course, have been submitted to the Par- 
liament of New South Wales; was submitted to, and 
would have been accepted, by the Parliament of South 
Australia ; but at the eleventh hour Victoria seceded 
from the agreement, and appointed a Royal Commis- 
sion of her own to report as to "the respective contri- 
butions of the States," the manner in which the respec- 
tive shares in the stream of each State should be deter- 
mined, and other matters. 


South Australia contends that on Victoria the blame 
of the whole Murray trouble now lies. 

The report of the Victorian Commission still leaves 
the question to be decided by further interstate argu- 
ment or the Federal Court. Meanwhile, Victoria is 
pursuing her vigorous policy of diversion and storage 
on her Murray tributaries and along the main river. 

South Australia has claimed for many years that the 
States which abut upon the Murray are riparian pro- 
prietors in respect of each other, that the Common 
Law of England applies to these States, and governs 
the use and enjoyment of t-he Murray and its tribu- 
taries by them and their inhabitants. 

The Common Law of England lays down that — 
"When land abuts upon a natural stream the owner of 
that land has a right to take and use the water as it 
runs past him for all reasonable purposes." "As against 
the upper proprietor, he (the lower proprietor) has this 
right ; he is entitled to have the flow of the water in the 
natural bed of the river coming down to him unaltered 
in quality and quantity, subject only to the right of the 
upper proprietors, such as he has against the proprie- 
tors below him to take the water for reasonable pur- 

As the construction of the second clause leaves 
room for infinite legal quibbling, it is to be regretted 
that Victoria saw fit to withdraw from the agreement 
of 1908. 

When the Bill to ratify the agreement was intro- 
duced into the South Australian Legislature in 1908, 
the people of that State fondly hoped that the long- 
disputed question of the Murray waters would be 
settled at last, and their State left free to pursue its 
projected jiolicy of storage and irrigation in safety. 

The matter of delivery is vital to South Australia. 
The agreement definitely fixed the minimum quantity 
of water which the sister States were prepared to grant 
her annually. Ren mark formally protested against the 


agreement, for various reasons ; but the Government of 
the day in Adelaide brought forward its Bill in good 
faith, although the measure, to some extent, waived 
the long-asserted rights of its State in regard to navi- 

Navigation as it concerns the Murray is a very 
important matter. Water carriage is cheaper than 
rail. Not only would the river settlements of South 
Australia profit by a navigable river, but all the other 
districts of the interior, which can be served by this 
magnificent Australian waterway. 

This aspect of the question was brought forward at 
the pre-Federation conventions. Finally, navigation, 
like the Post Office, was made a matter for Federal con- 
trol by the framers of the Constitution. 

Had Victoria not drawn out of the agreement of 
1907-8, South Australia was apparently ready to forego 
much of her previous claims regarding navigation, and 
put her legal riparian rights aside, providing that she 
might secure a permanent settlement of the dispute, and 
a fair delivery for the purposes of irrigation, and of 
maintaining (except in some months of such a year as 
1902, when the discharge was the lowest recorded) 
the effectiveness of the locks. 

The Premier of South Australia, the late Mr. Tom 
Price, put the whole question before the people in a 
clear, liberal, and logical statement of great length. 
The history and law of the matter were both eloquently 
traced, the arguments of opponents carefully criticised, 
and the important measure laid upon the table of the 
House in a manner which made for peace and harmony 
as far as the interstate outlook on the Murray Waters 
question was concerned. 

The outside States in the Federation, Australia 
generally, were hopeful that a long-standing dispute, 
always pregnant with unfraternal possibilities, was 
about to be permanently settled. 

But owing to the subsequent refusal of Victoria to 


adopt the Premiers' agreement of 1908, the Act was 
rendered futile. 

Since the simultaneous Bill was set aside, the Pre- 
miers of the three States have again met in conference. 
At their last meeting it was decided that engineers 
from each of the States should obtain evidence and 
draw up a report for a further conference to be held in 
the latter part of 191 1, when it is hoped by the more 
optimistic that some finality may be arrived at. 

The policy of the existing South Australian 
Government regarding the Lower Murray is one of 
decided expansion. 

Both the Premier (Mr. Verran) and his Treasurer 
(Mr. Crawford Vaughan) desire to get on with the 
work of locking, conserving, irrigation, and closer 

Wherever irrigation has been tried within their 
territory it has proved successful. One estimate gives 
South Australia half a million acres of irrigable land, 
but the State does not ask for water enough to irrigate 
that immense area. Traversed by a navigable water- 
way, the fertile soils of the Lower Murray are capable 
of carrying a large and prosperous population. 

Whatever future deliberations between the States 
may lead to, the locking of the Lower Murray has been 
determined on. Lakes Barmera and Victoria are to 
be converted into enormous storages. It is anticipated 
that the whole river frontage, from Cobdogla to the 
border, will be occupied by irrigationsts. 

The realisation of this scheme must prove of incal- 
culable benefit to the State. 

The proposed Lake Barmera area, which the writer 
has personally inspected, is, without doubt, one of the 
finest irrigation sites in the world. 

This lake, under a comparatively inexpensive 
engineering scheme, can be rendered capable of hold- 
ing 19,000 million gallons of water. 

From this storage it is proposed to ultimately irri- 


gate about 17,000 acres of the finest soils on the Mur- 
ray. This irrigable country has the advantage of 
being backed up by large tracts of first-class agricul- 
tural land. 

Apart from the Barmera scheme, the Government 
proposes to provide for the irrigation of 25,000 acres, 
with a maximum lift of 60ft. at Chowilla and Ral-Ral. 
At Berri, 2000 additional acres will be served. 

Between Overland Corner and Chowilla, 45,000 
acres are, at a rough estimate, to be brought under irri- 
gation, exclusive of the existing settlement of Ren- 

This one strip along the Murray is easily capable of 
supporting 2000 families, which, in turn, would mean 
the adding of probably a million sterling to the annual 
wealth of South Australia. 

At Waikerie, Ramco, Kingston, and Loxton settle- 
ments the areas under irrigation are to be increased, 
and, in addition to this, water will be pumped out in 
certain places into the back country for the farmer's 
stock and domestic supply. 

Whatever may be the result of future interstate 
conferences, the Government of South Australia 
emphasises the fact that it will proceed with the lock- 
ing of the Murray within its borders, and the carrying 
out of its storage schemes. 

An engineer with locking experience is now being 
engaged to carry out the work, and the Director of 
Irrigation is travelling the arid countries of the world 
to gain additional knowledge from example. 

The Government announces its intention of aiding 
settlers in regard to finding markets for their produce. 
It will exercise a paternal care in seeing that the most 
suitable and profitable crops are determined by experi- 
ment. The people who elect to become irrigationists 
will be given every opportunity to acquire and hold 
their land under easy terms and conditions. 

With the object lessons of Mildura and Renmark 


before her, with the encouragement afforded by the final 
successes of her smaller \ illage settlements, South Aus- 
tralia may confidently hope that this wise policy will 
be fully carried out. 

Along that 300 odd miles of river frontage, between 
her border and the sea, the Southern State possesses an 
asset in real estate the value of which she cannot yet 
fully realise. 

The present Government has awakened to this fact. 
The expenditure it contemplates is none too great in 
view of the results. 

Again and again on my voyage down the Murray 
the importance of irrigation was brought home to me. 
Everywhere I saw how its successes might be enlarged, 
extended, increased to an almost unlimited extent. 

The problem of the arid interior had been solved. 
It was no longer a problem, but a solution — such a 
solution as neither the first explorers nor the earlier 
settlers ever dreamed of. It meant that almost lifeless 
wastes may be converted into centres of population. 
It meant that silent lands can and will be made, before 
many years, to echo with the anthems of industry. 

It meant that, where only scattered sheep once 
gained an uncertain sustenance over huge distances, 
prosperous families will draw comfortable, easy livings 
from ten-acre blocks. 

South Australia, holding her hundreds of thousands 
of irrigable acres, is entitled to participate to the full 
with her fortunate sisters in the benefits which the fer- 
tilising waters of the Murray can confer upon her. 

Her claim is just. The writer is sure that it will 
be recognised and established by the Commonwealth 
at large. 

We, as Australians, are too closely knit together by 
a common purpose, mayhap a common danger, to 
permit an injustice to any one section of our people. 
We can afford to waste no more national opportunities. 
We want no more centralisation. We want no rich 


and poor States, but a general prosperity and a rapid 
development for ail. 

From time immemorial the waters of the Murray 
have flowed seaward without deference to surveyors' 
lines drawn upon a map, where, for the conveniences of 
colonisation, certain hypothetical boundaries were 
laid down. 

The spirit of Australian nationalism is too strong 
and growing a factor to insist upon any such arbitrary 

From Albury to the sea, though my way lay 
through the hearts of three great States, I found Aus- 
tralians — of whom I am justly proud — differing nothing 
in language, and next to nothing in racial charac- 

On either side the Murray, to the South Australian 
border, and down the Murray from the border to the 
sea, I met the same open-handed, open-hearted, brave, 
healthy, broad-minded, and industrious people. The 
English, Irish, Scotch, and foreign names they bore 
were mere accidents of birth. In occupation, in sur- 
roundings, and in mutual interests they were all Aus- 

Such being the case, there is no reason why this 
over-protracted Murray Waters question cannot be 
settled without undue delay. 

It must be realised that South Australia is in the 
position of the recipient, that the sources of supply are 
beyond her boundaries, but that, as a State of the Fede- 
ration, she is in a measure dependent on the just and 
equable treatment of New South Wales and Victoria. 

It would be against the very spirit of Federalism for 
any two States to endeavor to monopolise the coastline 
of a third State, and deny her access to the sea. Neither 
would it be in the Federal spirit for them to shut off 
the vitalising currents of their flowing rivers, so far as 
to wreck or imperil the interests of the recipient down- 


Rather will it be in the spirit of true Federalism for 
the parties concerned, or for the Federal Parliament 
itself, to devise a common agreement which will confer 
the maximum of benefit on each. 

Every partner must have a fair deal. In a case 
such as this there must be give and take on all sides; 
but no sophistry and no amount of argument in equity 
or Common Law can alter the justice of facts. 

The writer confesses that he came away from the 
Lower ^lurray with a greater amount of sympathy for 
South Australia's position than he had anticipated. 
This sympathy was born of wider knowledge and a 
fuller understanding. 

It is easy enough for the arm-chair philosophers of 
Sydney or Alelbourne to declare, in comfortable secu- 
rity, that South Australia has been too clamorous as 
regards her riparian rights. 

If the said philosophers were occupants of irrigable 
areas on the Lower Murray, haunted with a constant 
dread that the diversion works up-stream were going 
to absorb so much of the river's flow that some dry 
summer their own supply would be cut off altogether, 
or so diminished as to be useless to them, it is likely 
they would drop philosophy and take to agitation. 

All things considered, South Australia has put for- 
ward her claims very patiently and mildly. 

She seems to have entered the Federation in the 
belief that the riparian question, like the question of 
navigation, would ultimately be settled by the Com- 
monwealth on a basis of strict justice, or she was con- 
vinced that the points of difference between herself and 
the other States within the Murray watershed were not 
too great to be disposed of in friendly conference. 

One thing I repeat — this matter must be settled 
soon. Australia may have enough outside trouble 
before long. She wants no dissension within her 
gates. The issue is too portentous to be set aside for 
an indefinite period. It is too fraught with possibili- 


ties of future ill-feeling to be handed down to posterity. 
It cannot be shelved. An immediate settlement must 
be reached. Until an amicable working agreement is 
effected South Australia can only pursue her policy ot 
closer settlement — a policy which entails considerable 
expenditure in resumptions and public works — with an 
uneasy feeling. 

Until there is an honorable understanding between 
her and her sister States, which will ensure her a suffi- 
cient annual delivery to cover her requirements, her 
Government will naturally be handicapped in its good 
intentions by a feeling of responsibility. 

It would never do for her to risk the disastrous 
chances of a future shortage of water. 

That shortage, if it did occur, would certainly occur 
just at a time when the water was most wanted — in a 
dry season. 

Under these circumstances, the taxpayer of South 
Australia, being also a Federal taxpayer, naturally 
demands that there shall be a security of investment as 
far as irrigation works in his State are concerned. And 
the Federal taxpayers throughout the Commonwealth, 
being jointly and severally concerned, should see that 
he gets it. 

The interests of South Australia are as much a 
matter of Commonwealth concern as the interests of 
New South Wales or Victoria. 

If the dispute should ever reach a deadlock, this 
aspect of the question is probably the one that will 
appeal to the Federal Government. 

The last Interstate Conference (January, 191 1) left 
South Australia free to follow her policy of locking the 
Murray within her own territory, and confirmed that 
clause in previous agreements which gave her, "with- 
out prejudice," the right to convert Lake Victoria into 
a storage reservoir. 

She has not conceded anything of her legal rights 
as a riparian State. But she is no nearer to a settle- 


ment of the urgent question of delivery than she has 
ever been. 

And being the recipient, "delivery," as I have said, 
is an all-important question to the last-come, last-to-be- 
served of the triumvirate. 

The engineers of the three States will, on December 
1st, 191 1, present a "report and recommendations, 
based upon new data available, and on such further 
data as they shall obtain by that date, which will, in 
their opinion, be essential or conducive to a settlement 
by agreement between the States of New South Wales, 
Victoria, and South Australia, of the question of the 
Murray River and its tributaries." 

So, in severe official phraseology, the mandate runs. 

Whether the engineer — who is of a somewhat more 
cosmopolitan mind — will succeed where the politician 
has failed, remains to be seen. 

If an agreement as fair to all parties as that of 
1907-8 can be arrived at, and honorably adhered to, a 
fruitful cause of interstate friction will' be removed. 

The Press of South Australia, the Government, and 
the people generally take up the position that, having 
loyally accepted the agreement of 1907-8, the State is 
entitled to all it covered at least. Failing such an 
acceptable agreement, it is suggested that an appeal 
should be made to the High Court of Australia. 

This is an expensive and unsatisfactory way of 
arriving at an understanding. Still, it may be better 
to go to law than go to war. 

South Australia has already obtained the highest 
legal opinion on the question of her riparian rights, and 
is convinced that she has a strong case. Her advisers 
pronounce that "the riparian law here is exactly what 
it is in England, and anything which altered the 
natural course of a river in such a way as to make a 
substantial difiference to those lower down the river 
would be an unreasonable use." 

She is also assured that "her rights are to a regular 


flow of the river, and any diversions up-stream which 
interfered with the regular flow could be stopped under 
the Federal system. The said rights do not depend 
upon the locality of the watersheds, either in law or 

Certain legal opinion in the other States is, of 
course, diametrically opposed to this view. Lawyers 
the world over differ upon every conceivable issue — 
except fees. * 

Meanwhile, other authorities are urging that the 
Commonwealth should take control of the river in 
order, first of all, to maintain navigability. It has 
been pointed out that Commonwealth control means 
undivided control, and that a Federal administration 
would not be aflfected by the selfishness of individual 

Whether the final outcome of the dispute is Federal 
control or not, South Australia has set herself to the 
task of locking the Lower Murray, so as to make it 
navigable from Wentworth to the sea. 

The objection has been raised by the other States 
to the waste of water which occurs by the filling up of 
the two huge lakes at the mouth of the river. Why, it 
is asked by New South Wales and Victoria, should we 
allow this life-giving moisture to flow past our fertile 
lands simply to be evaporated in Lakes Albert and 
Alexandrina, and thence to flow uselessly into the sea? 

Though it might be said in reply that the conser 
vation and distribution works of Victoria involve great 
losses in seepage and evaporation, South Australia has 
recognised the reasonableness of this claim, and is pre- 
pared to construct works to prevent or diminish the 
waste caused by natural conditions. The Government 
has expressed its intention to reclaim the smaller lake, 
which has an area of 41,000 acres of irrigable land. 
The channel leading into this lake is but quarter of a 
mile wide, and as there is no flow, and the bed of the 


lake is 6ft. below that of the river, there will be no 
engineering difficulty in reclaiming it. 

The conditions are similar in the case of Lake Alex- 
andrina, which has an area of 140,000 acres. 

The soil of the lakes has been tested, and found to 
be as rich as that on the river flats, which analysis 
proves to be the richest land in nitrogenic properties 
known in the world. 

One feature about Lake Alexandrina is that an 
artesian supply has been tapped under the bed of the 
lake of beautiful fresh water which comes from the 
Mount Lofty Ranges, and flows out over the bore. 
For irrigation, therefore, the people settled on the bed 
of this great lake would probably be independent of 
river water. 

Excavating machiner}^ suitable for the work of 
reclamation has already been procured. 

That State has, therefore, entered upon a scheme of 
river improvement which will make the best and most 
economical use of the flow of the river from Went- 
worth to the mouth, for irrigation and navigation. 

It is sincerely to be hoped that a further agree- 
ment will enable South Australia to follow up 
with certainty her commendable policy of recla- 
mation, conservation, irrigation, and close settle- 
ment. The empty lands of Australia must be 
filled. Each State should be encouraged and 
aided in its endeavor to promote settlement. The 
progress of this voung nation depends more upon com- 
mon Australian sentiment and combined interests than 
mere State boundaries. We have no time for provin- 
cial selfishness or parochial quibbling. 

We are confronted, if we can only recognise the 
fact, with problems as serious as the most complex 
problems of European politics, and we have been given 
no specified time to reach our conclusions. 

My journey through the heart of a continent, my 
subsequent study of the whole subject of irrigation, 


my outlook as an optimistic Australian, convince me 
that, in the irrigable lands traversed by the Murray 
River and its tributaries, this continent possesses a 
potential wealth which cannot be expressed by sums of 

To convert that potentiality into production is the 
function of each and all of the Governments concerned. 
But in that endeavor each self-governing territory, 
while maintaining its own just rights and privileges, is 
bound to respect the rights and privileges of the others. 

None of the States is justified in monopoly, but each 
is entitled to a fair proportion of what will spell addi- 
tional wealth and progress to each — the regulated flow 
of that great river system with which Nature has provi- 
dentially endowed an arid interior. 

The sooner the proportion is determined and agreed 
upon the better for the future of this Commonwealth. 

Let the dispute be settled, amicably, or by friendly 
suit, if it must be, but let it be settled nozv and for all 

If, in this consideration of the politics of the Mur- 
ray, I may have, in some sense, held a brief for the 
State through which the final course of my journey 
carried me, it is because I recognised, long before I 
came in sight of Lake Alexandrina, that the South Aus- 
tralia Murray, without tributaries, meant so much, 
both as a waterway and a feeder, to the people of that 

To deprive South Australia of a fair river, and a full 
proportion of water for her irrigable areas, would be 
like tying a ligature round the main artery which con- 
veys the blood from the heart to the limbs. 

That such a selfish and insane policy could ever be 
seriously contemplated by any of the peoples concerned 
in the Murray's flow, or tolerated by Australia at large, 
is, to me, simply unthinkable. 

I have no doubt that national reason and justice will 
prevail, that all these really secondary considerations 


of appropriation and delivery will be satisfactorily 
adjusted, and that the States will share, each to the 
fullest degree, in the incalculable benefits that must 
result from a wise general policy of locking, conser- 
vation, and irrigation all along the splendid Murray 
and its golden streams. 

There was much more life on the river. We 
passed several comfortable houseboats, small trading 
steamers and ancient side-wheelers, which had been 
converted into floating dwellings. Hawkers, whalers, 
fishermen, wanderers, sportsmen — there are many 
between the Border and the sea. Poor-looking coun- 
try spread avv^ay from the banks here — flat, uninterest- 
ing, and sparsely clothed with stunted forest; but the 
river itself had become a proud, imperial stream. The 
Merle steamed past us, loaded to the gunwale with 
goods and machinery, just at sunrise. A little girl 
came out of a cabin on the upper deck, and, leaning 
over, called out, "Eva!" A stewardess stood out of 
the saloon doorway, and smiled at the child on the 
upper deck. A group of passengers standing out- 
side the wheelhouse waved to "The Lone Hand" as 
the stern-wheeler churned her way upstream and left 
us dancing in her wash. 

Thus, picture after picture flashed past like a con- 
tinuous cinematograph film unrolled by night and day. 

We struck a wreck that morning. 

A barge, deep-laden with merchandise and fodder, 
had snagged and sunk in deep water. Part of her 
lading was visible above the yellow Murray ; more of it 
was strewn along the edge, and a pile of recovered 
goods stood, covered with a tarpaulin, on the bank. 
We encountered bags of chafif floating downstream. 
At a fisherman's camp the miscellaneous contents of 
cases of drapery were spread out in the sun to dry. 

At Renmark. friend Taylor, of the Pioneer, 
received me enthusiastically. He had been to Para- 
guay with William Lane, who found many recruits in 




South Australia. He forbade further passage before 
I had inspected the settlement, and seen what the' 
soils of his State could produce under irriga- 
tion. So I journeyed forth with my brother press- 
man into a wonderful garden, many miles in area. The 
day was crisp and clear, rich with odors of ripened 
fruits and newly-turned earth. The country was 
criss-crossed by irrigation channels, fed from the river 
by powerful pumps. Dark groves of olives, rows of 
green orange trees, bearing golden burden, paddocks of 
waving lucerne, vineyards and orchards, with comfort- 
able dwellings, nestling among shade trees — such is 
Renmark Irrigation Colony. 

Without its boundaries, dry bush and ugly plains 
make significant contrast. It was another object- 
lesson in irrigation. 

We. pulled up our horses at the holding of one 
Peppercorn, a German settler (South Australia is 
blessed with a large German agricultural population) ; 
and here I saw the results of close culture. From ten 
acres this pioneer was gaining a good living, and the 
rainfall troubled him little. We culled late grapes, 
large, juicy bunches of the choicest sorts, and fed as 
we walked admiringly a-down his beautiful orangery, 
talking democratic politics and applauding scientific 

Renmark was founded in 1877 by the Chaflfey Bro- 
thers. In 1893 it was incorporated as a Trust by 
special Act of Parliament, securing the water right and 
supply to the landholders themselves. The Trust 
holds 13,500 acres of land and 16,000 acres commonage. 
Over 4000, acres are irrigated. The annual levy 
for water is £1 an acre, with five full irrigations a 
year. Special irrigations cost 3s. an acre. 

The fruitgrowers of Renmark have a packing shed 
of their own, conducted on the co-operative principle, 
where the output of raisins and currants is stemmed, 
graded, packed, and made ready for market. The 


Renmark colony numbers among its inhabitants seve- 
ral celebrities, including a Spanish countess and a 
stepson of Adam Lindsay Gordon. 

Renmark also boasts a municipal hotel — the only 
licensed house in the town. The management is by 
a committee of five landowners of the district, elected 
annually on the House of Assembly vote of Renmark. 
Electors must have a six months' residence qualifica- 
tion. So far this communal hotel — a fine, modern, 
well-kept hostelry it proved — has been a success. 
These 4000 acres of irrigated land have already yielded 
up to £ 100,000 value of fruit in a year. They are 
providing a comfortable livelihood for over a thousand 
people. A million acres along the Murray could be 
turned to like account; but the whole problem of the 
Riverina will have to be studied in a newer legislative 
light, and this writer again contends that its solution 
lies in the direction of Federal control. 

I did not get away from this pleasant little com- 
munity till late Monday afternoon. I bore with me 
a memory of charming people, prosperously dwelling 
amid the most idyllic surroundings. I also carried 
a loot of choice table raisins and dried fruits, presented 
me by the genial secretary of the Trust. A crowd of 
kindly Southerners stood on the bank to cheer "The 
Lone Hand" ofiF. 

I made a pathetic and affecting speech — to the 
engine, which hesitated about starting. I believe that 
engine was possessed of some kind of intelligence; it 
realised that Renmark was a good place to stay at. If 
ever I visit that generous settlement again, I hope to 
have a barge in tow. I might then be able to carry 
away all the dried fruit offered to me. Next day the 
crew of "The Lone Hand" was indisposed, suffering 
from a surfeit of "London layers." I do not think it 
is wise to consume more than six or seven pounds of 
table raisins in one day. Melville John Gilligan was of 
the same opinion. 


We lay below Renmark by the home of a German 
settler. The house — typical of the lower Murray, 
where a Teutonic population preserves many traits of 
Fatherland — was built of grey freestone. The sheds 
and cow-bails were of stone, with thatched roofs. 
Huge chimneys and great fireplaces told of bitter 
winters, but the stout families are well protected from 
the cold. They are excellent colonists, these Ger- 
mans, good citizens, and good agriculturists, and they 
have converted the sheepwalks between Renmark and 
Morgan — which were looked upon a few years ago as 
half-desert — into productive wheat lands. From this 
point onward we passed the grey-stone houses of Ger- 
man farmers at every few miles. Gretchen at the 
stoop gave us many a friendly hand-wave as we sped 
along, and Hans looked up from his furrow and 
saluted. Whole families would come out sometimes 
and flutter handkerchiefs, hats, and sun-bonnets. 
The cordiality of the population induced us frequently 
to go ashore and yarn. I began to dimly understand 
why Goethe occupied most of his idle moments 
embracing the waists of German maidens between 
rows of green peas. Genius is seldom at fault in 
these matters. 

At night now we saw the river steamers going by, 
lighting up the banks with huge reflectors, which 
brought out every object distinctly, and showed the 
steersman where the channel lay. He rolled the long 
river chart out yard by yard, and watched the bends 
and turns with hawk eyes from his high eerie above 
the upper deck. In his wake generally followed a 
barge or two, laden with wool or merchandise, the 
barge master following with quick revolutions of his 
wheel the course of the steamer towing ahead. Wider, 
longer, straighter grew the Murray. One magnificent 
reach gave us a clear run of eleven miles, down a 
water road half a mile wide. The shallow, winding 


river, choked wiih .>-aiid bars and snags, was surely 
jjart of a dream. 

I went ashore, of a grey, cold morning, at the irri- 
gation settlement of Lyrup, which began as a commu- 
nal colony of 4600 acres, and became an agricultural 
community on more individualistic lines. Commu- 
nism proved, as usual, a failure. The settlement was 
mostly German. There were twenty-four holdings of 
from ten to sixteen acres ; the crop was raisins, averag- 
ing a ton to the acre. The packing-shed was full of 
fruit awaiting shipment. Lyrup lays claim to pros- 
perity. The soil of the settlement under irrigation 
is especially fertile. The surrounding country is 
singularly unbeautiful. 

We spoke the Daisy, of Adelaide. She was 
engaged in the cod-fishing industry. Her owner, a 
blonde Deutscher, dwelt aboard with his wife and 
family. The bulwarks were wire-netted to keep a 
yellow-headed progeny from tumbling overboard; the 
family washing was hung out forward to dry. 
From the ship's stove went up, out of the mouths of 
bubbling pots, the song of the family meal. We 
passed many such craft occupied in similar fashion, 
and every hour caught fresh glimpses of river life. 
Small covered boats there were many — some tied to 
the banks, some paddling upstream, some propelled by 
wheels worked with a treadle like a sewing machine. 
Barges lay alongside the banks loading up with wheat; 
steamers pulled in by the wood-piles, getting fresh fuel 
aboard, or sent their crews ashore to cut it in the bush. 
Boat life and tent life seemed the manner of the 
country. The brown, strong women of the camps 
washed and cooked in booths of boughs or scrim — 
their lives were being spent under tent or tarpaulin, 
and their children were getting depth of lung and 
strength of muscle in the open air, under the Austra- 
lian sun. It was evident that, outside the fringe of 
regular settlement, a scattered, moving population was 




getting a living from the Murray. There were fisher- 
men, traders, woodcutters, bush workers, loafers — ail 
manner of folks — among whom an Anglican mission 
steamer was ministering. I spent an evening in this 
steamer's comfortable cabin — the minister was ashore 
holding service. I yarned with the skipper, who gave 
me specific directions and a rough chart of Lake Alex- 
andrina, at the mouth of the Murray, at the same time 
assuring me that "The Lone Hand" was not a fit boat 
to make the passage ; moreover, if I did attempt 
it, I should probably have to wait weeks for an oppor- 
tunity, as the surface of the lake was swept by con- 
tinuous winds. All of which I discovered to be good 

"The Lone Hand" put up her record run for the 
trip along the wide river that leads to Morgan — ninety 
miles in one day. We broke camp before daybreak, 
and ran on until the river was a mirror of stars. 

These last days on the Murray were fair and 
pleasant. The morning sun came over the lignum, 
and drew aside the fog from the river, as a lover might 
gently remove his lady's veil. Ducks and swans rose 
out of the mists; the smoke of our fires curled up in 
blue and white pillars, that clung about the tree-tops 
ere they disappeared into rainless skies. There was a 
homeliness about the stone houses on their sloping 
sandhills ; albeit, few of them were brightened by 
flower gardens or shade-trees. It was good to hear 
the churn of paddles round the bends, the whistle of 
the river steamers ; to watch at night the glare from 
the furnaces lighting up the faces of the engineers. 
High cliffs and colored banks threw their shadows 
into deep, sluggish waters. As we drew nearer to the 
sea the distant prospect was relieved by hills, and the 
banks by fringes of waving reeds and swaying wil- 
lows, which recalled the verdant Clarence and the 
rivers of the East. Wheatfields, having given up 


their yield, lay waiting in stubble for the plough, and 
hayricks and wodd-piles told of coming winter. 

We passed the Overland Corner, and saw a crowd 
of migrating South Australians on the trek with their 
teams and household effects. They were going to 
take up land in New South Wales. Among them — 
the younger members of the party — might be another 
Minister for Lands. The Overland Corner has already 
produced one, but I looked in vain for his ancestral 
home. I mentioned this on my return to Sydney. 
The ex-Minister laughed. The ancestral home, he 
informed me, had long ago been converted into 
trousers for the family by a prudent pioneer mother. 
The home had been a calico tent. 

The trekkers carried household effects and supplies 
on low German waggons. Behind one of these wag- 
gons they trailed a hooded buggy. In other waggons 
with calico tilts the families camped at night. They 
had come many hundreds of miles, had hundreds more 
to travel ; but they went blithely, with great confidence 
in the country and in their own futures. Years of 
patient toil, unknown difficulties, and certain dangers 
lay before them. Still they knew that in the end return 
for their labor would be fairly sure. It is citizens 
of this type that the Commonwealth needs ; every 
possible sphere of settlement and production should 
be thrown open to them. 

!\Iorgan is the principal shipping depot of the Mur- 
ray. Here the railway trucks discharge their freight 
of up-country requirements into waiting steamers, 
which, in return, refill the trucks with the wool and 
produce of the rivers. Grey stone buildings present 
cold, unornamental fronts to bare, hilly streets. Like 
most South Australian townships. Morgan wears a 
"blithered" appearance. It may be a good place for 
forwarding agents, but it is certainly no place for any- 
one seeking the aesthetic life. "The Lone Hand" pit- 
tered in with the early morning, and pattered out 


before lunch, preferring the prospect of olive groves 
and open farm lands along the river to that treeless 
town of grey stone and galvanised iron. 

The hills of the south were still Australian in con- 
tour and color. The familiar blue haze hung over 
them; typical bush homesteads nestled on their 
slopes, with wire fences and timbered ridges ; alternate 
forest and clearing; a hedge now and then; a red road 
winding round the foothills, and losing itself in a dark 
belt of gums — it was good to look on it again after the 
eternal plains. 

We drove along under cool willow reaches, avoid- 
ing the heat of the midday sun. From the reeds and 
rushes water-fowl rose at the sound of our coming — 
I spent my last days on the river in a joyous 
atmosphere of sport. What was the use of taking 
surplus cartridges back to the cities? Besides, little 
presents of game made equable payment for milk and 
eggs when we called at a riverside farm. 

The first day of May fell clear and sunny. A sea- 
gull flying upstream reminded me how Sturt and his 
companions hailed these birds as a welcome sign that 
their long journey was nearing its end. 

That forenoon we came into Mannum, destined, no 
doubt, to become some day a great maufacturing town. 
Here they construct modern motor engines, and, in the 
splendidly-equipped foundry of the Shearer Brothers, 
good Australian iron was being hammered into plough- 
shares at the rate of fifty dozens a day. 

They were interesting men, these ironfounders. 
The younger Shearer hath built himself an observa- 
tory, wherein, with his eye to a fine reflector, he rests 
his brain from sordid business cares by studying sun 
spots and the channels of Mars. As a relaxation after 
travel, I examined a fine storm on the sun's surface 
that morning, and exchanged ideas on Jupiter's moons. 
Here was an intellectual oasis, peopled by a Fellow of 


several astronomical societies — whose other hours were 
spent in building strippers and ploughs ! 

It was pleasing to converse over the telephone 
with friends in Adelaide who were waiting to welcome 
me. After all, civilisation is not a bad thing to return 
to. It seemed years since I left it. I had not slain 
an oyster for eight weeks ! Memories of the fried 
sole I had trifled with in a Melbourne restaurant two 
months agone came to me, and the stirrup cup which 
Lalage had filled. . . . 

The lights were lit at Murray Bridge when "The 
Lone Hand" came down the last reach, and drew in 
beside the fleet of barges and steamers by the railway 
siding. The Melbourne express thundered across the 
long bridge, a fiery caterpillar wriggling away into 
darkness. "The East was calling." I inquired my 
way to the telegraph office and hit the East with 
triumphant wires. I had brought the first motor boat 
down the Murray, end to end, and I claimed a world's 
record for river distance with a marine engine. I was 
somewhat pleased. 

We made our last camp on an unoccupied steamer, 
and went out and demanded dinner at the hotel. The 
proprietor made no profit on that meal. 

Next day we rose early, and petrolled downstream 
until the shores of Lake Alexandrina appeared beyond 
fertile flats and seaward hills. Strong winds raged 
across that splendid sheet of water. I had to aban- 
don the idea of crossing over to Goohva in the skifif, 
but 1500 miles of river lay to m}^ credit. It was 
enough. The paint was all scraped from "The Lone 
Hand's" keel ; but the brave little boat had finished her 
task faithfully and well. 

I brought her back tenderly to Murray Bridge, and 
began to pack up, rather sorrowfully. 

"Say," cried a voice from the bank. "When did 
you arrive?" 

"Last night," I replied, looking up. 



\|J»-^^;' i 


, .1 


, ■ 





A holiday party of four entire strangers, including 
two ladies, were regarding "The Lone Hand" with 

Strangers, but a community of interest soon made 
us acquainted. 

They were motor enthusiasts, and they knew all 
about that Murray trip from the newspapers. 

"When are you going over to Alelaide?" they 

'Tn the morning — first train," I said. "I'm just 
packing up." 

"Well, come across with us," they said. "We've 
got a car here. You'd better finish by motor, all the 

The idea was good. 

These good folks loaded my dilapidated baggage 
into their car, and bore me away from Murray Bridge. 

As we mounted the nearest hill I turned about to 
get my last glimpse of the great Australian river, 
whose winding course I had followed for fifteen hun- 
dred miles. The shallow watercourse of Albury had 
widened to a mighty stream, on which a setting sun 
cast w^arm reflections from reddened banks of cloud. 
Some day, I knew, that river and its tributaries would 
be feeding a vast population from thousands of irriga- 
tion channels. Some day its fertile flats in rolling 
Riverine would wave with the harvests of village 
settlements. Some day those endless plains would 
carry more than a million people, and echo the paeans 
of labor and industry. 

As an Australian, my heart leaped up at the golden 
vision of the future — the car wheeled round a bend in 
the road, and the Murray was lost to view. 

My acquaintances of the journey's end left me with 
congratulations and good wishes at the "South Aus- 
tralian," and Fred Johns, of the Register, seized me 
for an interview without delay. I said only what I 
believed to be the truth about the Murray question; 


but the generous people of Adelaide, when they read 
the Register next day, chose to regard it in another 
light. They proceeded to make a sort of political 
Paladin of a modest and unassuming pressman 
within their gates. The Government sent round its 
motor-car at once, with a request that I would endea- 
vor to make my brief stay in the City of Churches as 
pleasant as possible. 

After the Bush, the comforts and luxuries and 
amusements of a city can be attacked with new zest. 
The simple, everyday conveniences of modern life be- 
come novel and charming. Even the double-decked 
horse-cars of Adelaide seemed strange and wonderful. 
I did not ride in any of them ; but people who 
had done so assured me that they were quite safe. 

I went to hear a learned local professor of litera- 
ture lecturing on the exciting subject, "Was Hamlet 
Mad?" It was an excellent discourse, delivered before 
a large and apparently serious audience. But I had 
been too long away from the sources of culture to 
appreciate it as I should. I left before the conclusion 
of the lecture, fully convinced that if Shakespeare had 
been a critic, he would not have created Hamlet ; he 
would never have found time to do it. 

South Australia is the most deeply interested in the 
Murray problem of all the States. All the weight of 
her politics must necessarily be thrown in the balance 
for the locking of the rivers, and safeguarding their 
waters for purposes of irrigation and navigation. The 
policy of South Australia is, or should be, the policy 
of all Australia. 

On my way east I met a prominent Federal politi- 
cian in Melbourne. I endeavored to interest him in 
this great national question. 

"Oh, d — n the Murray!" he ejaculated, finally. 

"Yes, dam the Murray," I said; "that is the solu- 
tion of the whole problem." 


Every winding river somewhere finds the sea ; 
every story has its ending. But as the homeward 
bound Kyarra lifted her huge iron bulk into the roll of 
the Southern Ocean, away beyond the haze, I saw in 
fancy the great overlord bringing his tribute, gathered 
from a watershed of half a million square miles, unto 
Caesar — the sea. I saw the reaches sparkling in the 
sun. I sav^ the moon rising above the tree-tops, and 
heard the curlews call, and I bore away in memory all 
the mystery, the glamor of my days and nights, upon 
the Murray, the King River of Australia. 

Cyclops and Ceres 

Away back in the days of Antiquity, as the human 
intellect evolved from primeval to barbaric stages, Asia 
and Africa learned the value of irrigation. 

The Pharoahs erected barages and cut canals to 
freshen and fertilize the arid lands of ancient Egypt 
from the Nile. 

Accadian emperors carried out tremendous engi- 
neering works by the banks of the Tigris and Euph- 
rates. India and China have known how to save and 
use the waters of their mighty rivers for centuries. 

Both in ancient and modern times the densest popu- 
lations of all the Continents have been supported along 
the great river beds. 

Australia possesses, in that territory which is 
crossed by the network of long, sluggish rivers 
debouching into the Murray, an invaluable asset of 
millions of acres of irrigable land, the most fertile in 
the world. 

Modern Australia, like modern America, like 
ancient and modern Egypt, is now being made the 
theatre of great national works for the storage and 
application of water. 

Since the writer's motor voyage down the Murray 
four years ago, the rich and progressive State of New 
South Wales has hurried towards completion, at 
Burrenjuck, between Yass and Tumut, on the Mur- 


rumbidgee watershed, a storag-e reservoir which, with 
the exception of the Assouan dam, is said to be the 
largest work of its kind in the world. 

Before "River Rovers" went to press, it was 
arranged that the writer should include a special 
chapter descriptive of this colossal dam, and of the 
irrigation settlement down the river which it will 

"Catch the Southern mail to-night and get off at 
Goondah," said the Chief Engineer for Irrigation over 
the telephone. 

So I caught the mail, and went South and West, 
over the silent, slumbering land of New South Wales. 

At a quarter-past three in the morning the sleep- 
ing car attendant softly enquired "if I was awake." 

As the fat man sleeping overhead in the top berth 
of my compartment had trumpeted, gurgled, and 
chortled in a dozen octaves of snoring from the time 
we left Campbelltown. there was no occasion for the 
attendant to repeat his question. 

A few minutes later the Southern mail pulled up 
somewhere in the darkness.' 

A sharp official voice reiterated outside the carriage 
windows : 

"Goondah ! Goow-dah ! Goon-dah !" 

A few sleepy passengers hauled forth their rugs and 
portmanteaux, and stumbled out on to the platform. 
The train whistled, snorted, and passed on into the 

Overhead the sky was steel liright with stars. The 
night officer stood before me. holding a bull's-eye lan- 
tern, like a soldier with his bayonet at the charge. 

I showed my ticket, and Mr. Smith, resident engi- 
neer at the Burrenjuck Reservoir, took me in hand. 

He led me across the road into a scrim hut, where a 
good fire burned in an open hearth. 


Several rough-and-ready-looking fellows were 
drinking coffee in an outside room. 

We had 4 o'clock a.m. tea and toast before board- 
ing the little narrow-gauge train that runs down its 
twenty-six miles of two-foot track to Burrenjuck dam. 
The train started off in the chilly end of night that 
presages dawn. The small carriages swayed for- 
ward and rocked to and fro. 

Just in the grey of morning the resident engineer 
brought me from a promising doze with the announce- 
ment that we were going down the mountain. 

I looked out of the window as our midget train, 
drawn by a bantam locomotive, fussily began its 
breath-taking descent of seven miles, by serpentine 
curves and steep down-grades, towards that basin in 
the hills, which is soon to be filled, like a Cyclopean 
cup, with the rains and snow-waters of the rapid Mur- 

As the train noisily turned round, snake-fashion, 
biting at its tail, the engineer mentioned dif^culties 
which met the Government surveyors wdio came at the 
beginning of the job to lay down a route for the rail- 
way builders. 

But the locomotive went out of sight a corner or so 
ahead, and brought our carriages abreast of a gorge 
that distracted my attention. 

The footboard overhung its depths. I calculated, if 
we left the track just there, the next object to affect us 
would be a clump of forest oaks about a mile and a half 

I mentioned this to Mr. Smith. 

He smiled an indulgent smile, and assured me that 
the line was quite safe. For appearances sake he had 
put in a bit of concrete just there, but the journey was 
as sure as engineering wisdom and Westinghouse 
brakes could make it. 

We arrived by a series of incredible curves at a 
break in the hills, and saw the Murrumbidgee glisten- 


ing like an aluminium band in the sunrise far beneath 

Grey wraiths of fog, lifted from dewy fiats by the 
morning, floated along the tops of the river timber, and 
dissolved mysteriously. 

As Ave rattled down that sinuous red gash which 
the railway builders have made along the mountain 
side, day opened over and under us like a rose. 

It was a gorgeous Australian picture, painted in 
crimson and scarlet and gold on the blue canvas of 
the East, with just enough cloud to give it meaning 
and variation. 

A final slope-down revealed the roofs of Burrenjuck 
township. Below the little tin city ran a typical bush 
road, and beyond that, at the feet of the giant hills that 
are destined to become the banks of the second greatest 
reservoir in the world, the ancient Murrumbidgee sang 
the song it learned when the summits of those hills rose 
hundreds of feet higher towards the clouds. 

After breakfast at the Government accommodation 
house, we boarded the bantam German engine as she 
passed the platform. 

With a load of timber-laden trucks behind us, we 
puffed and twisted round another two miles of curves 
and grades into a gorge that grew narrow, like the 
neck of a flagon, until at last we broke out upon a 
rocky amphitheatre, crowded with life, industry, acti- 
vity and efl^ort. With unexpected suddenness, right in 
the wild, rugged heart of Australian hills, we found 
ourselves facing a gigantic ring, in which the young 
gladiator of Science fought for certain victory with the 
primeval genii of the mountains. 

A\niere the sword of creative Nature had cleaved a 
deep, narrow rent in the ranges to let the river 
through, with Black Andrew standing sentinel 
on one side, and Burrenjuck on the other, 
there had been thrown up a huge ant bed, 
which was crowded with busy individuals, tun- 


nelling, burrowing, guiding, hauling, and, withal, con- 
stantly, lifting up and setting down. Below us, 
uprearing from the river bed, stood a grey, inchoate 
mass of masonry and concrete, overhung by steel 
cables that stretched from high wooden towers on 
either side of that rocky gorge. This growing mass 
was surmounted by gigantic cranes, and surrounded 
by all the labor-saving appliances of modern invention. 
Here was a coming together of Titanic forces ! 
Here, above the angry roaring of the river among 
his ancient boulders, was heard the rattle of the wind- 
ing gear, the constant burr of dynamos, the steady 
"chug chug" of pumps, the persistent purr of drills, 
the crunch, crunch of the stone-breaker, the rocking of 
the gigantic machines which mixed the concrete, the 
whistling of locomotives, and the murmur of human 

The soul of Cheops, ancient builder of pyramids, 
might have looked down enviously on that wonderful 
harnessing of mechanical powers to achieve speedily 
what the old Egyptian architects attempted so 

Perched upon the mountain slope stood a 
long shed, built of prosaic galvanised iron. Here, in 
the form of three mighty dynamos, beat the heart of 
Burrenjuck, six hundred horse-power strong. 

From this centre of electrical activity — presided 
over by a modest, afifable, Scotch engineer — was deli- 
vered day and night the invisible power that, under the 
guidance of human intelligence, is slowly creating one 
of the wonders of Australia : one of the wonders of a 
modern world. 

I conversed with that amiable engineer. I felt that 
I ought to have spoken to him with my hat off, as he 
stood before the switch-board, gently rubbing his 
hands on a wad of cotton waste. At his right elbow 
purred, cat-like, a generator weighing two tons, which. 


with its two fellows, had been brought into the gorge 
in pieces. 

On a previous summer an old grandfather 
thunderstorm had come down the valley to have a few 
words with its tame relations. It bombarded the 
power-house for two solid hours with ear-splitting 
civilities and enquiries about the dynamos' health. 

That was why, the engineer said, they had put two 
lightning arresters on the building. A job that was 
paying 400 men £3,000 in monthly wages could not 
afford to be held up by any unticketed electricity that 
came along to leave a visiting card in the shape of 
fused wires without invitation. The perpetual "At 
Home" which the N.S.W. Government was holding in 
that remote mountain fastness had to be conducted 
with decorum. 

After a glance at the great furnace, which stalwart 
arms were feeding with logs of mountain gum to born 
the steam that gives birth to the electricity that gives 
life to the works, I passed on by blacksmith's shop, car- 
penter's shop and sawmill and plant store, to the stage 
overlooking the wall of the dam. 

Following the resident engineer up a steep ladder, 
I found myself under the wooden tower that com- 
mands the aerial cable-way. 

The master of ceremonies here was clothed in blue 
dungarees. He stood beside a lever, behind an enor- 
mous drum whereon was wound and unwound a 
quarter of a mile of pliable steel cable. 

A telephone bell rang out its orders. The man in 
dungarees pressed the lever gently. 

Away down in the valley, 400 feet beneath us, I saw 
a sort of open cage, crowded with figures that looked 
like dolls. The cage lifted slowly up and up until it 
reached the level of the tower, and stopped in mid-air. 
The man behind the drum seemed to manipulate 
another lever. The group in mid-air swung towards 


us, growing larger and larger, until they landed on our 
platform, full-grown men. 

In this way the aerial railway receives and delivers 
men, materials, and machinery by night and day. 

The engineers experienced some diiftculty in carry- 
ing it across the gorge. The first connection was made 
with a schnapper line! 

Looking down from the tower, one gradually got 
a better idea of the magnitude of the work. Under 
that line of suspension rope 1,200 feet long and 400 feet 
high, capable, by the way, of supporting a weight of 
15 tons, stood the hub of effort at Burrenjuck. In 
order to make a wall 240 feet in elevation (the height 
of Sydney General Post Office, from the pavement to 
the top of the tower), and 752 feet in length, capable 
of impounding a greater volume of water than is con- 
tained in Sydney Harbor, an enormous quantity of 
material must be shitted. 

The concrete work on this wall will absorb no less 
than 50,000 tons of cement ! 

To quote the descriptive words of Mr. L. A. B. 
Wade, the chief engineer, before whose revisionary eye 
the completed dam already appears in perspective : — 
"The Cyclopean concrete work, which will form the 
dam wall, is built up ot a series of units, each separate 
unit representing the average quantity of concrete that 
can be placed in one full day's work. Each of these 
units practically represents the space occupied by a 
good six-roomed cottage. They are designed so as 
to break-joint in every direction, and in this respect 
represent a gigantic torm of masonry construction. 
The object aimed at is to have each unit a solid mass 
without any joints or breaks caused by an intermission 
of work." 

Down at the resident engineer's office they pro- 
duced later a box containing a great number of little 
wooden cubes and squares, which fitted into one 
another with mathematical exactness so that no two 


joints lay opposite. The whole set, when dovetailed 
together, made a miniature model of Burrenjuck dam! 

I stood at the edge of the platform and watched 
that set of cubes and squares being slowly converted 
from plan to fact. 

The Murrumbidgee had been turned aside and the 
first foundations of the wall levelled, cleaned and swept 
as the housewife sweeps her floor before she lays a 
carpet. Through a tunnel in the masonry the river was 
pouring. When the engineers are ready that tunnel 
will be closed, and the flow of waters regulated by 
three immense conduits. 

When they require water for an irrigation down at 
Yanco, where the irrigable areas begin, over 200 miles 
away, the officer in charge will wire to the officer in 
command at Burrenjuck — and the water will be there 
not an hour late or a cubic foot short of the quantity 
ordered ! 

This is the conquest of Nature as the modern 
engineer understands it. 

With this end in view the red granite hearts of the 
hills were being scarped and torn, blasted out with 
explosives, slashed by railway cuttings, scooped with 
machines, and pock-marked with excavations. 

Finally, Black Andrew and Burrenjuck will be 
wedded with a hoop of concrete and masonry so strong 
that no flood can ever divorce them. 

Five thousand square miles of catchment area lie 
above this wall. The natural basin at the junction of 
the Murrumbidgee and Goodradigee Rivers, when 
filled, will provide a storage wherefrom the irrigation 
areas below Narandera can be kept green and garden- 
like through all the droughts of all the years to be. 

So the movable cranes below me reached out their 
long, steel fingers to pull down heavy masses of rock, 
which were broken into boulders some fifteen tons 
weight, lifted up by ir(.)n claws, swung across by the 
swaying cableway, dropped softly upon the summit 


of the wall, each in its appointed place and built solidly 
into the great structure with concrete. 

"Plums" they call these terrific boulders. The 
Engineer drops them into his pudding just where they 
are wanted. There is an unlimited supply in the cup- 
board at Burrenjuck. 

So the trucks of sand grated over the rails, brought 
up by a special line of narrow-gauge railway from 
down the river. 

So the faithful little engines puffed to and fro, and 
the busy belts whirled endlessly round and round. 

So the smaller cranes marched about like iron birds, 
with slow, deliberate movements, picking up gravel, 
concrete, anything that was wanted, and delivering it 
here and there. 

And all the time that great bastion was growing 
steadily, surely, smoothly across the channel of the 
Murrumbidgee, as steadily and surely as a bank 

Out of the chaos and clamor of this cyclopean 
workshop in the Australian hills the facsimile of that 
set of cubes and squares in the box at the Resident 
Engineer's office was being converted from idea into 

The waters that had met my motor boat at the 
junction of the Murray and the Murrumbidgee would 
no longer run wastefully into the Indian Ocean. 

They would be held back at Burrenjuck, and from 
many an irrigation channel between Narandera and 
Gunbar pour out prosperity in the near future for 
hundreds and hundreds of happy and prosperous home- 

I had seen what the mingled waters of the Murrum- 
bidgee and the Murray have done at Mildura, at Went- 
worth, at Renmark and elsewhere, and I knew that 
soon there will be another flourishing colony in 
Riverina, which will receive its vitality from Burren- 
juck as the veins receive blood from the heart. 


Behind this Titanic wall the water will be backed 
up for 45 miles. Another freshwater lake will have to 
be marked on the map of New South Wales. There is 
a plan hanging over the wooden box at the office 
whereon it is already painted — a pleasant blue ! 

The office itself will be only a few feet above high 
water mark. Passengers by the narrow gauge rail- 
way will be able to throw biscuits to the swans as they 
swing around the curves. 

The high shoulders of the hills are dotted by a line 
of white posts, marking the future levels. 

I tried to imagine the trees along the valley, as they 
would be, with 25 fathoms of water over them. I saw 
in fancy the fishes swimming through their leafless 
branches, which for immemorial years had soughed 
and swayed to the pressure of the winds. 

Three years have gone by since the wall began. In 
another three years the work will be completed, the 
plant removed, the greater part of the galvanized iron 
town gone, the channels of escape sealed. 

Then the water will begin to rise, slowly. It will 
cover the river oaks and gums ; creep up the hillsides, 
cover the mossy boulders, cover the flowering wattles, 
cover the dark pine trees and clustered scrub. Higher 
than the highest flood it will go, until it reaches the 
place whereto the finger of human intelligence has 
pointed it ! 

There it will stop, halted in obedience to the will 
of man. 

Meanwhile, away down in the narrow neck of that 
deep southern valley, over which those two sentinel 
hills have brooded for innumerable centuries, the belts 
revolve, the stone-breaker crunches with irresistible 
iron jaws; the dynamos whirl round with incredible 
rapidity, and the huge "mixers" rock their measured 
contents of sand, cement, and stone as a chemist 
shakes up a prescription in a bottle. 

The path from Rurrenjuck to the wall, which five 


years ago was difficult to negotiate on foot, runs along- 
side the railway line, and is trodden hard by the feet 
of the gangs going to and fro. 

In fine weather the works are lit at night by arc 
lights, and the shifts go on until the dawn. It is 
expected that the first water for irrigation purposes 
will be available by December, 191 1. 

The source of the Murrumbidgee is about 70 miles 
from Burrenjuck, in a straight line, but 200 miles by 
following the windings of the river. 

The Federal Capital site is only 40 miles away. It 
can be supplied with electric light from the dam. 

These facts the Resident Engineer imparted 
to me as I looked down upon that strenuous theatre 
of labor which had been opened with an overture of 
explosions in the heart of wild Australian hills. 

My mind was too crowded with impressions for 
the moment to take in all the significance of this 
colossal work. 

I could only dimly realise that this dam was to be 
the mammoth goblet into which the water from a 
catchment of 8,OQO square miles would be poured 
until it overflowed. 

Within that gigantic sweep of range and plateau 
stood mountains 5,000 feet high, whose summits were 
yet white with the snows of winter. 

In spring the snow waters from these mountains 
will help to fill the reservoir, and provide for the needs 
of midsummer, when the garden areas below Naran- 
dera grow thirsty and no rain falls. 

As a rule the snow water begins to come down the 
'Bidgee the second week in August. Its flow continues 
until the middle of October. 

These melted snows are destined in future to 
moisten those arid but fertile lands two hundred miles 

As Summer sweeps across the Riverine, less 


favored districts will brown beneath his feet. But the 
irrigation areas will still wear the colors of Spring. 

For years past measurements have been taken of 
the Alurrumbidgee's annual flow ; all the rest is a 
matter of calculation. The engineer knows how much 
water to expect from the catchment area; the irriga- 
tionist learns how much water he will require. The 
centres of supply and demand simply converse ami- 
cably over a telegraph wire, as occasion arises, and 
the settlers down the river add twelve or twenty-four 
inches to the annual rainfall of Yanko or Gunbar, as 
the requirements of their tilth may be. 

In many kinds of culture — raisin drying, for 
instance — it is a decided advantage to control the 
season's moisture in this way. 

Those prospective settlers below Berembed Weir, 
armed and invulnerable, are going to be on a better 
wicket than the Western pioneers who fought the 
drought with naked hands. Valiant as their efiforts 
were, the battle was too often a cruel crushing combat, 
carried on to defeat by overwhelming odds. 

The new men will hardly be able to realise how the 
men of old were handicapped. 

Conditions will be so vastly improved for them, 
the element of uncertainty will be removed; there will 
be no starving stock, no waterless wastes in summer, 
no dry, heartbreaking outlook for winter — the rain {or 
its equivalent) will come when it is wanted \ 

It will always come when it is wanted, and in the 
exact quantity required! 

Intending settlers need have no fears on this head; 
all the moisture needed to ensure from the highest 
class lands in Australia a maximum of growth and cul- 
tivation will arrive as surely as sunrise. All that will 
be required from them is the payment of a small 
charge and the exercise of sufficient intelligence and 
energ}' to make their holdings return them comfortable 


livings. The N.S.W. Government is prepared to be 
a beneficent wet-nurse to some thousands of them. 

While I was turning these thoughts over in mind 
the whistle blew for lunch. 

The air down the 'Bidgee is a great creator of 
appetite. I tramped back to midday meal at the 
accommodation house awed, but hungry. 

Filled with an abundance of excellent food, such 
as the good housekeepers of the bush delight to ofifer 
the city stranger, I charged my pipe and descended 
again upon the Resident Engineer at his office. We 
had another look at the box containing all those little 
wooden Maltese crosses. 

That box had a curious fascination for me. Each 
block in it represented an area of 1,020 square feet of 
concrete. I had been watching that concrete "batched," 
I had seen it swung down in cyclopean hods to the 

The unit that each wooden block stood for was 45 
feet long and 36 feet high, and would weigh anything 
from 600 to 800 tons if it could be detached from the 
composite mass. So cleverly was the whole work put 
together that there always was a difference of 3 feet 
between adjoining units, and no one join lay opposite 
to another; nor did any two units stand immediately 
one on top of the other. 

The scheme was devised by the co-operative engi- 
neering brain of the Department. 

It will stand forth in fact as the Burrenjuck Dam, 
long after the men who gave it birth have gone the 
way of all flesh. 

It will endure as a perpetual testimony to the 
wisdom and courage of the Government that inspired 
and nursed it, and a lasting monument to the skill of 
the Department which carried it out. 

That night I looked down on the temperance town 
of Burrenjuck, which for a brief season longer will 


offer habitation, under strict government, to its thou- 
sand odd souls. 

Patches and blurs of light glimmered through a 
drizzling rain. 

Beyond the tinkling of a cracked piano and the 
nasal twang of a gramophone I heard in imagination 
the wavelets of a great freshwater lake breaking softly 
along a shore-line marked by white posts ; and beyond 
the temporary dwellings of Tin Town I saw a mighty 
settlement two hundred miles away in rolling Riverina, 
with green vines glistening and purple lucerne flower- 
ing on a thousand farms. 

The following afternoon I set out from Burrenjuck 
en route for that settlement of the plains which is 
soon to be. 

Gallantly the little locomotive climbed the steep 
shoulders of the hills. Gradually the song of the rapid 
Murrumbidgee died away, the dull but stately river 
oaks dwindled into toy trees below, the precipices grew 
deeper, the mountain crests drew nearer. 

Night closed in as we breasted the summits grade 
by grade. 

By and by the dim lights of Goondah appeared 
again, and the kindly voice of Mr. Baker, the line 
superintendent, was heard beside the footboard of the 
miniature railway carriage, offering the comfort of a 
bed at his place until the Southern mail came through. 

The mail was crowded with commercial travellers 
taking their early-in-the-week trails for the cities of 
the South and West; but five hours' sleep at Goon- 
dah, coffee at Harden, and a good hot breakfast at 
Junee strengthened me to fight my way to a seat in 
the train bound for Hay. 

Through flat country, gay with a glorious spring, 
we ran down by Coolamon and other prosperous 
places of the plains to Grong Grong. 

Here Mr. \N . D. Campbell, one of the Government 


engineers engaged in the laying out of the irrigation 
area, was waiting with a motor car. 

A run of thirteen miles across country that looked 
like a vast square of green velvet pile carpet, brought 
us to Berembed Weir. 

At this point a granite bar crosses the channel of 
the Murrumbidgee 220 miles from the Burrenjuck 
Dam, and a little over 500 miles from where the 
'Bidgee joins the Murray. 

These rocks offered a good foundation for the engi- 
neers to construct the diversion weir from which all 
the irrigation canals, channels, and watercourses are to 
be filled and fed. 

The irrigable district extends on the north side of 
the river from Narandera to Gunbar, a distance of 
130 miles. It covers an area of 358,000 acres. Of this, 
196,000 acres have been classified as first-class land. 

Allowing a maximum of 100 acres to a holding, the 
area will carry 3,580 homesteads at least, which would 
certainly mean a population of 25,000 people. 

This is a minimum. 

Another approximation fixes the carrying capacity 
of this belt of agricultural country under irrigation 
at anything up to two hundred thousand souls. 

This calculation is based on the fact that 11,000 
acres of irrigated land at Mildura, on the Murray, are 
at present supporting 5,000 people. 

From the weir at Berembed, whatever its future 
population is destined to be, the area will receive all 
the water it requires for purposes of irrigation. 

These diversion works at Berembed are another 
example of how modern engineering controls natural 
forces. . 

At "low river" the whole of the Murrumbidgee's 
flow can be shut off by simply lifting a set of collap- 
sible iron shutters, wliich, during flood time, are laid 
flat on the river bed. 

Into the mouth of the main canal — that like an 


aorta will feed all the arteries and veins of the settle- 
ments — the necessar}' quantities of water will be turned 
by a stout concrete regulator. 

Cement and iron give a massive and imposing 
appearance to this weir. 

Pulleys and cog-wheels, iron shutters and screens, 
g'ates and pillars make up a huge mechanism, the func- 
tion of which is to intercept and deliver so many mil- 
lion gallons of water forwarded to order. 

The weir is a sort of clearing house, where the 
wholesale goods are taken in, checked, and passed out 
again to the retailers. 

A lock has been provided for passing steamers up 
and down through the weir when it is in use. 

Into the main canal the precious ofiftake will pour 
instead of going down, as of old, to join the Murray 
waters, and, after a long, inutile journey, losing itself 
in the salty Indian Ocean. 

By this main canal — 50 feet wide at the bed and 8 
feet deep — it will be accepted and passed on in an even 
flow at the rate of cubic feet of water per second. 
The total length of this feed channel will be 130 miles. 
The fall is 9 inches to the mile. For a short distance, a 
natural watercourse, known as Bundigerry Creek, is 

When the irrigable areas are reached the water is 
distributed by a series of major and minor channels, 
so laid out as to make the highest point of each block 
of land to be irrigated the point of delivery. 

The whole network of artificial watercourses is 
under complete control. Regulators and escapes pro- 
vide for the disposal of surplus water in flood times. 
Each individual irrigator can base his labors on a sense 
of security. All the chances of seasons will be. for 
him, reduced to profitable certainties. Neither flood 
nor famine need he fear. He is simply called upon, 
by the exercise of ordinary judgment and reasonable 


energy, to justify a paternal Government in giving 
him a leg-up on the rapid climb to fortune. 

It is estimated that fully a thousand miles of ordi- 
nary distributing channels will have to be constructed 
across this Northern Murrumbidgee area. 

These will have their stops and sluice gates, for 
carrying off the surplus water which flows from cul- 
verts and crossings. Provision has also to be made 
for draining the lower areas after irrigation. 

Another thousand miles of channel, much smaller, 
of course, will be required to effect this gigantic 

The total cost of these various channels has been 
set down at £521,000. 

It seems extravagant; but the outlay is more in the 
nature of investment than speculation. The people of 
New South Wales are not only going to get their 
money back with interest in due course, but they are 
adding an incomputable asset to the sum total of 
national wealth, in the shape of additional population 
and increased production. 

The weir and works at Berembed were constructed 
by the Department under the day labor system ; the 
excavations are carried out by contract, and the work 
appears throughout to be well and faithfully done. 

It is claimed that the country which has been 
chosen for this vast national enterprise is among the 
richest in the world. It ranks equal, if not superior, 
to the very best irrigated lands in India or the United 
States. That it is destined to carry a large and pros- 
perous population the writer has no doubt. 

Analysis and experiment have shown that the soils 
within the area are rich in all the chemical properties 
that make for absolute fertility. 

The very aridity of the country has been Nature's 
savings-bank provision against the future. 

The absence of heavy and continued rainfalls over 
an even or slightly undulating surface has allowed the 


deep red soils below Narandera to retain all their fer- 
tilizing properties. 

Ag"e followed age, aeon wore on aeon, while these 
ruddy lands were being slowly enriched. 

While the higher lands year by year were writing 
off losses, the natural savings banks of the West 
were adding to their deposits. 

The full heritage of the centuries now falls to the 
people of Australia. All the deep, loamy country of 
the great plains needs is water, and the water only 
needs engineering like this to make it available by 
simple gravitation. 

Agricultural production on these lands can be 
infinitely varied. On the Lower .Murray eight crops 
of lucerne a year are cut under irrigation. 

The growth of lucerne implies successful dairying, 
pig farming, and the fattening of lambs for market. 

Soil and climate are alike suitable for the produc- 
tion of currants and raisins, the perfect cultivation of 
oranges, olives, peaches, plums, grapes, apricots, figs 
and other profitable fruits. 

This country is perhaps the healthiest in the world. 
The dry heat of inland summer is more endurable 
than the moist lower temperatures of coastal regions, 
and, what the stock-breeder and the culturist equally 
desire, it is free from fruit pests and animal diseases. 

The hospitable wife of a hospitable overseer of 
works had laid a table heavily with lunch for a party 
of five. Nor would these good Westerners accept from 
the visiting strangers more than thanks, as, well-filled, 
they climbed again into their car to resume a delightful 
journey of inspection. 

The day was cloudless, warm, benign ; the roads 
level and firm; the air exhilarating and pure. Beautiful 
red-soil plains, indescribably green, circled us, broken 
here and there by shapely cypress pines, or drooping 


On emerald flats, stately white, straw-colored and 
black and white ibis stalked in scattered regiments, 
picking up insects with their long, curved beaks. 

Flocks of pink and grey galahs and crested cock- 
atoos rose ahead of the car. 

Gorgeous Buln-Buln parrots, and grass parrakeets 
in hundreds, flashed like thrown jewels across the 
lawny green-sward as we sped. 

By rolling acres of wheat lands covered with crop, 
past lush acres of swamp frequented by plover, duck, 
and swan ; through natural avenues of trees as regular 
in outline as if they had been pruned and planted by 
the hands of a landscape gardener, we came to the 
thriving little city of Narandera. Here, on his table 
at the Crown Lands ofiice, Mr. Campbell spread out 
the general plan of the Murrumbidgee Northern Irri- 
gation Scheme, and explained its salient features. 

A typical Westerner, tall, lean and brown, 
he traced with professional pride the progress of 
the work, follow^ed the winding courses of the canals, 
outlined the already resumed areas and marked off the 
proposed extensions. 

The plan showed a stretch of 130 miles of irrigable 
country, divided into districts of from 47,000 odd to 
70,000 acres. 

The surveyors — one of whom, the genial Mr. 
Lloyd, stood at his elbow — had crossed and recrossed 
it with a multitude of straight lines. These were the 
boundaries of the holdings that are to be offered to 
settlers by the New South Wales Government on the 
easiest of terms and conditions. 

The present determination of the authorities in 
Sydney is that each settler will be allotted 50 acres of 
irrigable land with an optional 150 acres of dry country 
in addition. The latter can be utilised for depasturing 
stock, sheep raising, or wheat farming, as season and 
requirements provide. 

Beside these subdivisions, ten acre blocks for hor- 


ticultural purposes, and two acre blocks for farm and 
other laborers will be allotted. 

Two townships will be established and laid out on 
the most modern plan. They can, and doubtless will, 
become two of the most attractive towns in the Aus- 
tralian Commonwealth — garden cities verdant and 
shady with trees, and sweet with the perfumes of 

The horticultural blocks are to be located in the 
vicinity of these towns ; the workmen's blocks will be 
scattered in groups around them and through the 
whole of the areas, forming small villages. 

The occupants of these blocks will be given an 
opportunity to share in the general prosperity of this 
new province. 

While living handily to their occupations they can 
grow their own fruit and vegetables, keep their own 
cows, rear their own pigs and poultry. 

The first area to be made available for settlement 
is one of 5,000 acres adjoining Yanco railway siding, 
on the line to Hay. 

The next area, on the northern side of Mirrool 
Creek, will be served by an extension from Barellan. 
No block is to be further than ten miles from a railway. 

Provision has been made by Parliament for the 
resumption by the State on a reasonable valuation of 
the whole of the lands to be benefited by the scheme. 
Under the provisions of a carefully-devised Act the 
direct administration of the area devolves upon a 
Board or Trust, at present composed of the Ministers 
for Lands. Works, and Agriculture. 

The great benefits of this closer settlement policy 
are association in settled communities, elimination 
of waste, co-operative efifort, and the inspiriting 
example of success. 

The settlers will have all the advantages of civilisa- 
tion added to the pleasures of a healthy rural life. 

The Government offers them every encouragement 


and assistance, and practically ensures them against 

The form .of tenure decided upon is that of per- 
petual lease, between which and freehold lies only the 
difference of a term. Rentals to be charged are at the 
low rate of i^ per cent, per annum on the capital 
value of the area taken up. This is all that will be 
asked for the first five years of occupation, when a 
grant may be issued. 

Afterwards 2^/2 per cent, per annum is charged for 
the remainder of the lease. 

The rights of bequeathment and sale are conserved. 
The holder can will his holding as he chooses. Or he 
may sell. 

To quote the official edict as it stands : — 

"The capital values are subject to re-appraisement 
at intervals of fifteen years from the issue of the grant. 
It is proposed to increase this term to twenty years. 
Residence must be commenced within three months 
after confirmation of application, and may, with the 
concurrence of the Land Board, be by deputy until the 
issue of the grant, after which it must be by the 
lessee, and cover a continuous period of seven months 
in each year. Residence may be conditionally sus- 
pended or omitted, or may be carried out under certain 
conditions, on the holding of a member of the same 
family, or in a village or town within reasonable dis- 
tance, on application to the Land Board. A holding 
may be protected against sale for debt by registering 
an instrument under the Crown Lands Act. The 
holder may dispose of his interest at any time after 
issue of the grant, and is entitled to tenant-right in 
improvements should the lease be surrendered at any 
time to the Crown." 

A paternal Government is going to go further than 

It will prepare the settlers' blocks for irrigation 
before they occupy them. 


It will erect yards and buildings, the cost to be 
paid off by annual instalments. 

It will provide plans showing the exact level of the 
blocks, and the most suitable places and ways for 
putting in the most suitable and profitable crops. 

It will erect, in the first place, factories and build- 
ings where the different products of the land may be 
graded, treated, and made ready for market. 

It will supply tested stocks from State nurseries. 

It will refund to successful and unsuccessful appli- 
cants alike one-half the railway fares paid by them on 
their visit of inspection, and on any journeys they may 
have to make to appear before the Land Board in con- 
nection with their applications. Successful applicants, 
their families and belongings, will be carried at half- 
rates, also such live stock in their possession as may be 
sufficient for the area taken up. 

In addition to all this, the Government has already 
established a Demonstration Farm on the settlement, 
for testing the suitability of various commercial plants 
and stocks, and instructing settlers in regard to soil 
and cultivation. Experimental plots will, moreover, 
be laid out in different localities. 

Apart from all these object lessons and concessions, 
the Government is now making ready to erect dwel- 
lings for its clients. 

From a number of plans prepared by Government 
architects the intending settler may choose his cottage 
of four or six rooms, with the conveniences his heart 
or the hearts of his women folk desire, and lo ! his 
Maecenas will dower him with a home on the easiest of 
terms ! 

It is whispered also that the Government will 
supply fencing material at low rates on beneficent 
terms, so that the £300 capital, which it is advisable 
that a settler should possess, shall be left practically 
intact for the purchase of stock and the making of a 
fair start. 


Without doubt the charge for water which it is 
proposed to make during the season of irrigation (5s. 
per acre foot) is, if not the cheapest, among the 
cheapest in any country where irrigation supplies have 
been made available by either public or private enter- 
prise. Powers are provided under the Act for reducing 
this charge by one-half in the first year of occupation 
by the settler, being then increased each succeeding 
year until the fifth year, when the full charge must be 

If the farmer should require water over and above 
what his water right of one all-over foot per acre 
confers on him, he can get it at the same rate in 
summer, and for less in the winter season. 

This is a general statement of the conditions of 
settlement. If any reader desires fuller and further 
information, he will obtain it by applying to the secre- 
tary of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Trust, Public 
Works Department, Sydney, N.S.W. 

Narandera wears an air of general prosperity and 
cheerfulness. As a junction of two lines of railway, 
at the heart of the South- West, it rejoices in its 
importance, and looks forward to becoming a metro- 
polis when the great irrigation scheme is an accom- 
plished fact. 

In its wide, main street, bullock-drays and motor- 
cars pass one another, representing the Old Australia 
and the New. 

After we had got from the plan a mental outline 
of the country about to be inspected, we set ofif again, 
under the same cloudless sky, for Yanco. 

On our right ran a line of low hills, marking the 
distant northern boundary of the country which is 
going to be irrigated. 

The road in places was like a red-ink line drawn 
across a map colored bright green. 


Two things impressed themselves on the observer's 
memory — the wonderful symmetry of the native trees 
and the vivid plumage of the birds. 

It was a dream land, through which we journeyed 
swiftly and noiselessly, wearing its very brightest 
aspect, no doubt, under the influences of an unusually 
good season. 

Spring tripped like a coryphee over the carpeted 
stage of Riverine. There was water in all the creeks 
and gilgas, and grass on all the plains. 

We ran down across the main canal, through more 
native pine avenues, and stretches of saltbush, yarran, 
and boree, to Yanco homestead, a red-gabled brick and 
stone mansion, standing in spacious grounds, sur- 
rounded by orange groves and orchards, rose arbors, 
and ornamental trees. 

At Yanco and its environs Sir Samuel McCaughey 
has already demonstrated the capabilities of this 
country under irrigation. 

Yanco is a horticulturist's paradise, a botanist's 
delight, an agriculturist's joy, an orchardist's dream. 

Its paddocks of irrigated lucerne cover 5,000 acres. 
It has its pumping station, miles of channels, vege- 
table gardens, mammoth barns bursting with dry 
fodder, its granaries, nurseries, engineer's shop, shear- 
ing and machinery sheds, motors, graders, drays, har- 
vesters, ploughs, scoops, traction and portable engines, 
and plant of all descriptions. 

The head station is lit by electricity. Few subur- 
ban mansions can compare with this splendid barony 
of the plains for comfort, elegance, and convenience. 

We found its hospitality of the usual liberal West- 
ern character, and abided within its commodious guest- 
house under what seems to be an unquestioned travel- 
ler's right. 

From wide verandahs, shaded b}'" vines, one looked 
out on a scene of wealth and tilth that testified to the 
resources of the surrounding country. 



Golden wattles were blooming adown the carriage 
drives; spreading currajongs, cedars, and pepper trees 
dappled the grass with patches of shade. 

Flowering jonquils and roses gave out their per- 
fumes. African box thorn, hawthorn, and saltbush 
made hedges of cosmopolitan variety. 

Clumps of sugar gums, acacias, and flowering 
shrubs added to the picture. It is said that irriga- 
tion, even under the comparatively imperfect methods 
pursued by Sir Samuel McCaughey, has added 50 per 
cent, to the carrying capacity of Yanco sheep station. 

A twittering of sparrows and the calling of the 
water-hens along reedy channels by the homestead 
roused us early in the morning. After the usual 
ample bush breakfast of fresh milk, porridge, mutton, 
toast, and tea, we motored ofif towards the northern 
hills, which overlook the irrigable area, and have, in 
some measure, been set apart as its "back country." 

We traversed much good, deep, red soil en route, 
crossing the main canal again, and driving through 
wide tracts of wheat lands promising rich harvest for 
the coming season. 

From the slope, looking back, we got a fine view 
of the Promised Land, soon to be occupied by an 
invading army of settlers in peaceful conquest. 

Reminders of drought had met us in the native 
trees lopped to feed starving stock, as we came over 
from Yanco, but there was no trace of drought just 
then in all the wide, green plain that lay below. 

Never again will its irrigable acres be held in the 
remorseless grasp of rainless summers ; never again 
will it appear as a grey picture of desolation under the 
Australian sun. 

While cloudless skies arch pitilessly over less- 
favored inland regions, its greenness will endure. 

Constantly freshened and revived by the rains and 


melted snow waters stored in far-away Burrenjuck, 
receiving, as occasion demands, all the moisture requi- 
site for its needs, the land that smiled beneath us would 
preserve its beauty and its glory throughout the 
coming years. 

It was glorious, magnificent, tremendous; an 
achievement for Australia to be proud of; a tribute to 
the genius of democratic government; a testimony to 
human wisdom ; an everlasting monument to human 

One looked down in reverence upon that golden 

Dark and dignified stood its cypress pines. 
Solemnly grouped its clustered yarrans, crowned just 
now with gold. 

The solitary myalls and boree drooped their grace- 
ful foliage. Green and yellow spread the level lands. 
The fertile wheatfields waved softly in the wind. 

Through it all the great main canal, a red artery, 
followed its appointed lines and curves. Here and 
there stood the surveyors' white pegs, marking out the 
boundaries of rOads and channels and homesteads that 
are to be. 

If one might only come back in fifty years and 
look at it again ! 

We passed down by a red road from those low 
hills, where the malice grows thinly, recrossed the 
main canal, boiled a billy by one of the squatters' 
dams, and enjoyed our midday meal of beef and bread 
and tea under the yarran trees. 

A regiment of fat "Shropshires" — their faces all 
turned the one way — watched us with that air of 
venerable stupidity which is characteristic of sheep. 

Topknot pigeons whirred from belt to belt of tim- 
ber, and flock plover ran through the long, green grass. 


There will be plenty of game, fish, fruit, vegetables, 
salads, fresh mutton, and good fat beef for the settlers 
on these fertile flats along the 'Bidgee. 

The cost of living should be reduced to a minimum 
on the irrigable areas. Any family with saving 
instincts should arrive at independence in a few years. 

Over many broad, wire-fenced tracks, that cross 
the vast sheep paddocks of the plains, we travelled 
south by west, at varying rates of speed, until we came 
to the foot of some low-lying hills, which are marked 
down on the map as the Macpherson Range. 

A climb of about 300 feet brought us out on to a 
flat surface of conglomerate rocks, showing large 
water-worn pebbles embedded in the clays of past 
geological periods. 

Primeval forces had baked, boiled, and pressed the 
whole mass into a curious natural concrete platform, 
on v/hich we stood and looked back over the valley. 

A wonderful panorama, indescribably still and 
green, rolled away to the horizon. 

This wide expanse of irrigable land was crossed by 
distant lines of fences. 

Far away one saw again the red artery from which 
it is to draw the waters of perennial spring. 

The hills on the opposite shore, beyond this sea of 
green, presented that dark blue appearance typical of 
distant mallee everywhere. It was hard to realise 
that they were the same hills we had skirted and 
mounted only a few hours before. 

Green squares of wheatfields — some of them 
hundreds of acres in area — were dotted here and there 
like little squares of silk on a patchwork quilt. 

The country spread beneatli us in beautiful design. 
a landscape garden, alternating between lightly-tim- 
bered groves and open plains. 

Its dominant colors were scarlet, green, and gold. 

Wherever the soil had been bared, by Nature or 
man, it displayed a pronounced redness, which pro- 


claimed its richness and fertility. If under the light 
rainfall of spring it presented such a delightful pic- 
ture, how will it gladden the eyes of future beholders, 
when these rich soils are constantly moistened and 
cultivated, when its orchards are all in bloom, its fields 
covered with tall lucerne, its vine3^ards glisten in the 

Then the smoke of its hamlets and villages will 
curl upward in blue spirals; the silken-coated kine and 
woolly sheep will graze over dewy pastures ; the 
hedges will be fragrant with roses, and the water chan- 
nels wind like silver ribbons sewn upon Nature's gown 
of velvet sheen. 

Then, too, ploughshares will gleam along red fur- 
rows, the burr of separators will be heard in the dairies, 
the healthy laughter of children and the songs of 
women will answer from happy homesteads nestled 
among their bowers of foliage. 

And, above all, the proud anthem of human indus- 
try, with its inspiring choruses of prosperit}', wall arise 
as a joyous echo to the clanging of the machines m 
that distant gorge where Burrenjuck and Black 
Andrew stand as silent sentinels either side of the 
massive gate that is closing in upon a treasure of 
precious waters, whose future value to the State of 
New South Wales can hardly be computed in mun- 
dane pounds, shillings, and pence. 

As our little party lingered on that rock}' platform, 
taking in all the beauty, all the glory, of the present 
scene, and realising something of its future, I think 
that the feeling wuthin our hearts was akin to 
prayer. One could have stayed a full day on the 
summit, but we had only a short afternoon left to get 
back to Yanco for the night. 

Across another stretch of fine irrigable country we 
ran down to Whitton railway station, where high 
stacks of late wheat and early wool awaited trucking. 

These small townships within the irrigation dis- 


trict seemed destined to a still greater prosperity than 
recent good seasons have enabled them to enjoy. The 
influx of population cannot fail to benefit their many 

At present, with teeming wheat harvests, good 
clips, and the local expenditure of much money on 
public works, they are visibly sleek and contented. 

We put in another comfortable night at North 
Yanco, sitting after dinner before a huge log fire in 
the spacious dining-room of our quarters, and listening 
to yarns spun by the overseer and his staff about sheep 
and squatters and the characters and customs of our 
Australian back-blocks, which are rapidly falling fur- 
ther and further back towards the heart of the con- 

Next morning, on our road of travel, we saw the 
bridge builders at work, putting in one of the many 
solid structures that will be required to carry the 
settlement's roads across its canals. 

Hard by a gang was busy erecting Government 
workshops. The area is going to find employment 
for many workers in wood and iron outside its agri- 
cultural population. 

The spades of the diggers had sunken deep into a 
soil almost blood color, rich enough to grow in profu- 
sion all the fruits, cereals, and fodders of the temperate 

The uprights of the buildings were to be of cypress 
pine, hewn locally. This knotty, aromatic timber, of 
which many Western houses are built, is immune from 
white ants. 

We left that scene of open-air activity, typically 
Australian in its environment of tents and camps, and 
went down a little further to North Yanco shearing 
shed, where 53,000 sheep were destined to leave their 
wool before the "cut out." 

The shed covers an area of 10,000 square feet. 

Between forty and fifty shearers and rouseabouts 


were busily removing and handling fleeces of Aus- 
tralia's staple product. 

A modern shearing shed, such as North Yanco, is 
unromantic enough. 

Everywhere there is grease and the smell of greasy 

One sees a line of men standing two by two 
beside a wooden partition, whereon a long shaft 
revolves unceasingly. All the cutters are connected 
with this revolving steel rod. 

Each stooped figure retains a silly-looking sheep 
between his knees. All along the line the fleece is 
falling away, as if it were being pushed ofif by the 
hands of the men who are stooping over the animals. 

Boys with baskets rush the severed fleeces to the 
greasy tables. The wool classer toils busily. The 
men and boys at the press move to and fro at their 

The shorn sheep, bare and humiliated, are hustled 
down the shoot, and the work of the woolshed goes 
on evenly until the whistle blows. 

The whole atmosphere is tense with industry. This 
modern woolshed resembled somewhat a huge 
barber's shop where forty customers were rapidly and 
unceremoniously relieved of their wool all at the one 

The whiskered shearer of tradition is passing away, 
but I noticed a fair percentage of bald heads along the 

There is a railway siding alongside Yanco shed, 
and the bales are passed out directly into the trucks. 

From the shearing shed we drove down to Yanco 
Experimental Farm. 

Here the Government has set aside 320 acres, many 
of which are already planted with vines and fruit trees 
of most promising growth and appearance. 

The varieties are far too numerous to list, but offi- 


cial reports go to show that a wide range of agricul- 
tural production lies before the district. 

The farm is hedged by graceful eucalypts, planted 
for "breaks." Avenues of flourishing young palms, 
rows of almond trees in blossom, trellises of grape 
vines, orangeries, evenly-pruned orchards of plum, 
peach, and nectarine ; gravel walks, bordered by silky 
oak and currajong trees; crowded vegetable plots, and 
comfortable residences for officials and students, made 
the farm a scene of pleasing promise. 

In this College of the Open Air some fifteen or 
twenty students were at work. 

The cook at the students' quarters avowed that the 
twenty individuals for whom he catered ate as much 
as thirty shearers, a testimony to the general healthi- 
ness of climate and occupation. 

The people who take up land on the Northern Mur- 
rumbidgee irrigation area are apparently not going to 
need much medical attention. 

As I had now circled and crossed a good ninety 
miles of the area, viewed it from all points of the com- 
pass, and accumulated a volume of notes and impres- 
sions far beyond the requirements of a short descrip- 
tive article, the car was headed for Narandera, to 
enable the three Sydney visitors to catch the afternoon 

A crowd of happy-looking people boarded the cars 
at Coolamon. They had been down there for the 
Show, and were returning home. 

We dropped the most of them at different stations 
along the road to Junee. The red-brick buildings of 
that important junction came into view at sundown, 
and the Southern mail delivered the writer safely on a 
Redfern platform before breakfast the following 

But that journey to Burrenjuck and the settlement 
has left impressions on his mind that the years will 
not efface. 


When I look back on those wonderful weeks spent 
along that great river, which, hundreds of miles from 
their sources, receives the Murrumbidgee and the 
Darling; when I think of those vast fertile plains of 
Riverina, arid, but capable, under scientific treatment, 
of producing in utmost profusion a wealth beyond 
human dreams, I am convinced that the Government, 
which is investing a million and a half of money in 
this vast storage and irrigation scheme, has shown a 
wisdom and foresight which will justify its policy 
throughout the future. 

I have contended elsewhere that there is room in 
Riverina for millions of white people. The whole 
problem of the closer settlement of these lands lies in 
water conservation and irrigation. 

Its solution is now a mere matter of engineering, 
plus scientific treatment and wise administration. 

Before the Northern Murrumbidgee irrigation 
scheme is an entire success there will be difficulties 
to overcome, mayhap minor failures to record, but 
that its ultimate success will be written in golden let- 
ters on the brightest pages of Australian history there 
is, in my mind, not the slightest doubt or smallest fear. 

The rains and snows, which the Alurray would 
otherwise receive from the Alurrumbidgee, and carry 
wasted to the sea, stored at Burrenjuck. and delivered 
on those irrigable areas l_ving between Narandera and 
Gunbar, are destined to turn that 130 miles' length of 
arid country into a land of beauty and prosperity as 
fair as any land in the world. 

The men and women who take up that country 
can rest assured that, under the auspices of a most 
paternal Government, they have every chance of 




The success of the narrow gauge railway, which 
has made the construction of Burrenjuck Reservoir 
possible, should be accepted as an object lesson by 
every Australian Government that wants to push its 
State ahead, and by the Federal Government, which 
is supposed to stand for the good of all Australia. 
This country, with the problem of effective occupation 
before its immediate consideration, may find in the 
narrow gauge system a solution of many perplexities. 
Into country where engineering difficulties make it 
impossible to put broad gauge railroads, the 2-foot 
gauge can be cheaply and safely carried. 

/\s feeders for main trunk lines, and on proposed 
irrigation areas and elsewhere, the narrow gauge line 
possesses all the advantages of cheapness and effi- 
ciency. It will make lands capable of occupation 
which otherwise offer no inducement for settlement. 
It will throw already-occupied areas into closer settle- 
ment, and make poor lands richer, by bringing them 
within reach of markets. It v/ill also help to make 
non-paying trunk lines profitable. 

The average cost of construction for the 2-foot 
gauge, with "Krauss" locos, trucks, passenger cars, and 
complete rolling-stock, in ordinary country, is as low 
as £1000 a mile! 


It must be remembered that not only is this figure 
infinitely below the cost of the ordinary gauge, but 
the upkeep of such lines is infinitely less. 

The trucks are capable of carrying lo and 15 tons; 
sharp curves, up to 11)^ chains radius, can be safely 
negotiated, and the lines can be laid on a gradient 
as steep as one in thirty. 

The little "Krauss" locos on the Burrenjuck railway 
possess a greater tractive force than the ordinary 
broad gauge engines ; that is to say, that more power 
can be got out of the "Krauss" engine, for its size, than 
the big hauling locos, of the South-Western Line 
develop in proportion to their bulk and weight. 

There are already 80 of these locos doing good 
work in Australia — at Mount Lyell for example, and 
there should be work for many more. 

On the West Coast of Africa they have laid a 
2-foot railway 250 miles long, and France and Ger- 
many now have a thousand miles of 2-foot feeders. 

Australia, the country of "vast distances," could 
link up and develop large areas of territory by narrow 
gauge railways. The Burrenjuck line has shown 
Australian engineers the way. 

Districts which will probably have to wait another 
20 years for their railways could be quickly served by 
these lines at a minimum cost to the Treasury. 

If the inherent official objection to everything 
efifective and modern could only be overcome, this 
country might be sent half a century ahead within 
10 years by the construction of feeding and developing 
lines like the 25 miles of narrow gauge road which has 
played an indispensible part in the building of the 
second greatest storage reservoir in the world. 



At Mildura, where Australian enterprise has con- 
\erted arid lands into smiling gardens by the applica- 
tion of water, the writer was introduced to an inno- 
vation which is going to effect a wonderful saving on 
irrigable areas and elsewhere. 

This is the system of wood water pipe, compara- 
tively new in Australia, but perhaps as old as the 
earliest irrigation works in the world. 

There is a section of an old wooden main in the 
Technical Museum in Sydney, that was taken up in 
Oxford Street, London, a few years ago. After being 
in use for 150 years, it was dug up, and found to be, 
and still is, quite sound. 

The water mains at New Orleans, installed by the 
French, were wooden logs, i8ft. long, with 5in. bore. 
They served the city for over 100 years, and when 
replaced recently were found to be quite sound. 

To cite an instance of the durability of old bored 
wood pipe in Australia, a considerable quantity of this 
class of pipe was recently dug up from Sydney streets, 
and on examination was found to be excellently pre- 
served, after being underground for 70 years. 

These facts proved the durability of wood pipe. It 
only remained for modern industry to discover a new 
method of applying old ideas, and the revival of wood 
pipe was certain. 

Laying 18 inch "Pioneer" Wood Pipe 
Mildura Irrigation Trust. 

Three lines of 54 inch pipe, showinK Compound Curves. 

This class of conduit is much cheaper than cast- 
iron or any other metal. It is lighter to handle, saves 
labour and freight, and can be readily and easily laid 
down. Added to this, if kept constantly wet. wood 
will last longer in the ground than iron or steel. 

The carrying capacity of wood pipe is 20 per cent, 
greater than metal pipe, and delivers the water as clean 
as from the source of supply. It is not affected by 
acids and salts in the water or soil, and no tubercula- 
tions form on the inside of the pipe. 

Under these circumstances, it is not surprising to 
find that, for water supply for towns, for mines, for 
irrigation areas, and for all the various functions of 
pipe, it is coming into general use in Australia, as it 
has done for many vears in Canada and America. 

Among others, the Public Works Dept., N.S.W. ; 
the Metropolitan Board of AVater Supply and Sewer- 
age, Sydney ; Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of 
Works; South Australian Government: Goldfields' 
Water Supply. Perth ; State Rivers and Water Supply 
Commission. ATelbourne; N.S.W. Government Rail- 
ways ; and A^ictorian Railways have effected installa- 
tions of "Pioneer" Wood Pipe. 

In the domain of irrigation, particularly, there is a 
big field for the use of this cheap, effective, and satis- 
factory water conduit. 

People who are going to take up irrigable areas, 
and people who are already living by them, will appre- 
ciate this modern application of an old idea. 

Before this book went to press the Author visited 
the works of the Australian Wood Pipe Co. Ltd., al 
Balmain, and saw the process of manufacture. 

Briefly, the pipes are made of selected and care- 
fully-seasoned pine. The long staves are dressed, 
tongued, and grooved, and bound round with heavy- 
gauge galvanised wire by special machines. Then the 
pipe is immersed, and completely covered on the 
exterior surface with a heavy coating of bituminouj; 

Section of li miles of 18 inch "Pioneer" Wood Pipe, 
installed for Mildura Irrigation Trust. 

Continuous Stave Pipe running through a Gorge. 

composition. It is finally wrapped round with hessian 
cloth, receives another coating of the composition, and 
is rolled in savvdnst to facilitate handlini^. 

A wood sleeve or collar is used on each length of 
pipe to connect the pipes together when laying. 

These pipes can be manufactured to safely with- 
stand pressures up to 500ft. head, and experiments 
have shown that wooden pipe is al)S(jhilel\- water- 
tight under pressure. 

In America and Canada there are man\- thousands 
of miles of wood pipe used by \'arious cities, towns, 
and irrigation trusts, and some of these lines have been 
downi for nearly 40 years, and are still in an excellent 
state of preservation. 

The demand for wood ])i]>e has been so great in 
Australia that The Australian Wood Pijie Co.. Ltd.. 
the pioneers of this industry, lia\e ])een compelled to 
enlarge their plant at Sydney to double its ca])acity. 
and, besides, are now erecting new branch works ai 
Footscray, A^ictoria. 

I predict an enormous demand for this usc-lul 
article of manufacture. 



When the Author of "River Rovers" arrived at 
^rannum in 1908, the ri^-^er bank down by the foundry 
yards was crowded with Shearer's strippers, waiting 

The shop could hardly keep pace with its orders. 

When I went back tc Mannutn. via the ^Turray, 
with a South Australian Parliamentary party, in the 
latter part of the year 1910, I found that the Shearers 
had just gone into new premises. On the slo]:)e of the 
hill above the river stood an immense building, cover- 
ing I know not how many square feet of the Australian 
Continent, fitted with still more up-to date plant, with 
long lines of steel shafting, pulleys, belts, furnaces, and 
all the latest appliances for melting', hammering, 
moulding, beating, tempering, drilling, rivetting and 
generally treating iron and steel. 

The name and fame of "vShearer's, of ATannum," 
had so gone abroad throughout the land that this new 
factory became not only possible, but necessary. All 
of which, to me. as an Australian, was very satisfac- 
tory indeed. 

But what pleased me as mucli was to hear that, 
in the fitting up of their new village of industry on 
the Lower Murray, the proprietary had taken into con- 
sideration the fact that this country desires sanitary 
working conditions as well as fair rewards for the 

wealth-producers of the Continent. D. Shearer, under 
whose supervision the new works haxe been erected, 
is one of those somewhat rare individuals — a modern 
manufacturer who strives for i)roficiency as much as 
profit; who ne\er fort^ets that without Labor the 
efforts of Capital would be fruitless. 

Me is proud of the fact that the best of his workers 
are Australians, and endeavors to treat them as Aus- 
tralian Avorkers should be treated, more like partners 
in a joint enterprise than as mere automatic wage- 

Shearer's establishment is an example of a 
strenuous fight put u]) 1)\- ])luckv commercial people 
against the dragon of centralization which has 
become, in a great measure, Australia's greatest curse. 

Shearer's has been like a "red rag to a bull" to those 
people Avho think tliat all the manufacturing should 
l)e done in Melbourne. I'p to 1905, river wharves were 
free to all rail-borne goods, Imt by an agreement made 
between the Commissioners of South Australia and 
A^ictoria, heavy wharfage tolls were clapped on the 
river traffic. It is remarkable that ploughshares com- 
ing from the Alannum factory lia\e to pav about three 
times as mucb wharfage rates at Murra}' Bridge as 
are levied on tlic ]iri\ati' \\liar\es at Port Adelaide. 

Implements are carried from the manufacturing 
centres in A'ictoria fsuch as Melbourne, Sunshine, and 
r>allarat). from Scr\iceton. l)y the South Australian 
Railways, for less tlian liall' iJie rates charged on the 
same class of goods w ben ean-ierl from Mnrrav Bridge 
to Serviceton. 

No wharfage cliarges are made in \"ictoria on its 
own products. 

It is interesting to see wlieat carted bv road from 
places near the river to Port Adelaide, having immense 
hills to traverse, in order to sa\c \hc bigb wharfage 
1-ates at Murray P.ridge. These are only a few 
instances to show the vigorous growth of centraliza- 
tion, and it is still g-oing strong. All political parties 

are to blame for this clop^o-ini^ of llie internal trade of 
the Commonwealth. 

This firm has striven hard to get the South Aus- 
tralian Railways to carry goods on payable mileage 
rates throughout. l)ut. instead, "special rates" have 
increased to such an extent that they would i)ut an 
American Trust to blush. 

This centralization ])olicy of the South Australian 
Railways has forced the Shearer Bros, to start a 
branch factory at Kilkenny for the manufacture of 
ploughs. Then, with both places growing, and to 
save running them as a capitalistic concern. iMr. John 
Shearer, with his sons, took over the Kilkenny works, 
under the style of "John Shearer and Sons," and Mr. 
David Shearer, with his sons, took over the Mannum 
factory, as "David Shearer and Co.," each place retain- 
ing its respective specialities. Tn the former place 
ploughs and cultivators of all varieties arc manufac- 
tured to meet Australia's needs, whilst at the latter 
are made strippers, harvesters, ploughshares, harrows, 
scrub rollers, scrub rakes, etc. 

Neither of the firms has. so far. had labor troubles, 
and both are strongly in favor of decentralization for 
the country's good. 

I had an opportunity, on my last visit to South 
Australia, of seeing some examples of the ploughs 
turned out at Kilkenny by that branch. 

Away back in my salad years I did a little experi- 
mental farming on a ten-acre orchard block in Central 
Cumberland. The sight of those brand-new Shearer 
ploughs, fresh from the factory at Kilkenny, l)rought 
home to me the memory of a wooden-beam, American 
implement which I. a callow agriculturist, had trust- 
fully bought from a city agent just after the purchase 
of my ten-acre block. A vc^ung plough horse got a\\a\- 
with it at his heels into the uncleared section, and 
converted it in ten minutes into the most complete 
wreck on record. Rut those Shearer ploughs presented 
a different proposition to my somewhat critical eye. 

They were fitted with what in the parlance of ploughs 
is described as "a patent Hftinj? device, and a new 
patent foot and share and concave mouldboards." They 
were "stump-jumpers." Anyone who has trodden a 
fresh furrow fm new or old ground knows the advan- 
tage of the stump-jumper. 

I felt my jaw reflectively as I surveyed Shearer '.s 
"stum|>-jumpers," resplendent in new paint and good 
workmanship. I remembered my old wooden beam, 
and the days of my amateur farming — it was more a 
jaw-breaker thzr. a =*'jmp-jumper. and about as well 
fitted :' loughing the hard soils that 

these ;: ; i eadily overcome, on alight 

drau^t, as a child's toy spade is fitted for excavating 
a raiUvr ""ig- 

I c iV from D. Shearer's factory and the 

observatory itt Mannum regrettinj^ ' ' ; ' vca my 
farming experience so young. If •; a fair 

start with one of those stump-jump ploughs, and 
worked up to the stripper stage, I might not have 
grown discouraged, and given over agriculture for the 
less profitable and less certain business of writing 



Clieap power is one of the most potent factors in 
the development of Australia. In a countr}^ where 
the standard of wages is unusually high, it is essential 
that the mechanical agencies of production should be 
made as economical as possible. 

The generation of force by more simple and less 
expensive methods has been the chiefest study of 
modern inventors and engineers. 

During the last decade, inventors the wide world 
over have set themselves to find new methods of gene- 
rating and applying" power. The conquest of Mind 
over Alatter has gone steadily on. 

New laws have been discovered, new principles 
applied, new machines invented. Every year some 
advance has been made, some cheaper, handier appli- 
cation of mechanical energ}^ worked out from theor}' 
to practice. As a result, w^e have machines to-day 
generating force at a tenth of the cost wdiich machines 
of a quarter of a century ago involved. The mechani- 
cal genius of the twentieth century strives not only 
to save the cost of labor, Init. endeavors to reduce the 
cost of power as well. 

The invention of the Suction Gas Plant has, in a 
great measure, revolutionised modern mechanism. 

So far. Suction Gas has proved itself the cheapest 
poiver obtainable in the whole range of applied 

The particular attention n\ people who are inter- 
ested in irrigation and piinijiin^ plant is directed to 
this fact. 

In the precedinis: pages of this book the Author has 
endeavored to impress upon .\ustralians the impor- 
tant part that irrigation is destined to play in the occu- 
pation and development of this continent. 

Any contrivance or invention, having a bearing on 
irrigation, or public or private water supply, is worthy 
of mention in these pages. 

The writer recently had an opi)orlunity of inspect- 
ing a plant in the making. 

This is a Schultz Suction Gas Plant — manufac- 
tured by E. Schultz. of West Melbourne — of which 
several installations have already been effected by the 
manufacturer for the Victorian Government. 

At the instance of the Rivers and \\ aters Depart- 
ment, a 20 h.p. Schultz plant, for ]^umping purposes, 
was some time ago erected at Birchip. with gratifying 

At Dimboola another Sclmltz plant, of ^^ h.p.. 
is giving absolute satisfaction. 

The 21 h.p. |)lant under construction at present is 
intended for lU-ulah. N'ic. 

Now that tlie efficacy and cheapness of Suction (^as 
have been definitely pro\ed. there is no doubt that the 
immediate future will sec an almost universal appli- 
cation of the principle. 

TIh' adxantage of Suction Gas, as compared with 
other power, is, first ()f all. simplicity and easv hand- 

Xo certificated engineer is recpiired to run a 
J^chultz Suction Gas Plant. 

Any operative or youth with ordinary intelligence 
is rpiite ca])al)le of controlling a highly powerful plant. 
7'lic clement of "skilled" labor ean he dispensed 7vith, and 
there is no risk. 

55 H.P. Suction Gas Engine and Producer Plant, 
installed at Dimboola. 

The second qualification which puts a Schultz 
Plant easily first in mechanical competition is 
Economy : 

Suction Gas is 375 per cent, cheaper than 

Suction Gas is 275 per cent, cheaper than 
Town Gas. 

Suction Gas is 225 per cent, cheaper than 

Now, the saving of money in the expenditure of 
power is one of those problems which every producer, 
every manufacturer, everyone who uses machinery at 
all, must consider. 

In this age of competition, no firm, nor individual, 
nor public body can aft'ord to overlook that fact. 

This is why the Suction Gas system is leaping 
ahead. It eliminates waste, and gets through the 
work cheaply, safely, and eft'ectively. 

Another recommendation is that, with Suction Gas, 
there is no danger of explosion. 

For the installation of Suction Gas, very little fioor 
space is required; a powerful plant can be set up in a 
comparatively small space, and there are no expensive 
chimneys or smoke-stacks. 

The principle of the Suction Gas is interesting 
enough for a short, non-technical explanation. 

Uriefly, coke or charcoal is burnt in an enclosed 
chamber, through whicli a mixture of air and steam is 

The gases produced by this combinatimi arc then 
[)urified, and (mixed again with airj intro(Uiced into 
the c}linder of a gas engine, and ignited, under coni- 
[)ression, b}' an electric spark. 

The resulting pressure is trail >miiU(l lo the crank. 
The burnt ntixture escapes inlo ihe open air. and the 
engine automatical!}- sucks up a fresh mixture. 

To anyone w itli tlic slightest knowledge of applied 
mechanics, ilic wlmle principle is simplicity itself. 

The generation of force by explosion is, of course, 
similar to the familiar method of the modern motor or 
oil engine now in such general use. 

Australian Suction Gas plants, such as those manu- 
factured by E. Schultz, can be used for all purposes. 

As a valuable adjunct to a modern farm, nothing 
could be better, simpler, or more profitable; the power 
generated by Suction Gas can be applied in a multitude 
of ways. 

For driving pumps for irrigation purposes, for the 
supply of electric light, for sawmills, refrigerators, 
machine shops, all the operations of industry, the 
Suction Gas system can be applied with the best 

Messrs. E. Schultz and Co. have gained a reputa- 
tion for manufacturing Gas Engines which can favor- 
ably compare with any of imported make. One of the 
main features of the Schultz Suction Gas Plant is its 
simplicity and strength. Perhaps the best proof of its 
reliability and efficiency lies in the fact that the Vic- 
torian Government recently placed a third repeat order 
with this firm. 

It must be expressly mentioned that the Schultz 
Suction Gas Plant is, in all its details, designed and 
built by Australian workmen, at the firm's works, 33 
Stanley-street, West Melbourne. 


New South Wales presents an unrivalled field for 
the tourist, holiday-maker, and health-seeker. The 
climate is, upon the whole, one of the mildest and most 
equable in the world. It ranges from the Arctic snows 
of Kosciusko, through the mildness of the tablelands 

The Hotel Kosciusko, N.S.W. (6000ft.) 

and mountains, to the sub-tropical glow of the North- 
ern coast. At Sydney, the capital, 17 degrees Fahren- 
heit measure the diflFerence between the midsummer 
and midwinter readings. The scenic beauties of New 
South Wales are diverse in character, and cover an 
extensive field. 

Within half an hour's journey from Sydney, the 
tourist reaches the gay Pacific beaches, alive with surf- 
bathers, and the numberless picnic grounds at the bays 
and inlets of the peerless harbour of Port Jackson. 
Within forty miles are the Blue Mountains, where he 
imbibes the health-giving air, and is moved by the 
grandeur of the solitudes and the enchanting beauty of 
the sweeping valleys, tinkling cascades, and fern- 
fringed ravines. 

The marvellous underground caverns at Jenolan. 
Yarrangobilly, and Wombeyan blend the beautiful with 
the mysterious. In these subterranean vaults and 
corridors of living rock are scenes of transcendent 
beauty, which the experience of the dweller in the 
older world can offer nothing to parallel. 

The South Coast district — Nature's owm picture 
gallery — the tourist has marked as his own. Here 
there is a magnificent succession of sweeping pano- 
ramas of seascape and landscape, where there meet 
mountain, forest, valley, meadow, stream, and sea. 
under cloudless summer skies. 

The Kosciusko Range is unique. Mount Kosciusko. 
Australia's highest point, lies sixteen hours from 
Sydney by rail and motor. In summer its brac- 
ing atmospheres are a tonic to the system, its 
glorious views delight the mountaineer, and its trout 
streams are unexcelled. In winter, around the palatial 
Hotel Kosciusko, in the heart of the snows, the famous 
winter pastimes of Norway and Switzerland are 
indulged in. Ski-running, tobogganing, and ice-skat- 
ing courses lie close to the Hotel, which offers every 
comfort, and is artificially heated throughout. 

The New South Wales Government Tourist 
Bureau, Challis House, Sydney, will gladly supply the 
/ullest information, pamphlets, folders, maps, booklets, 
and itineraries dealing with the State's scenic resorts. 

A Tree-Dweller at Yarrawonga. 

Straightening "The Lone Hand's" Propeller Shaft. 

Hauling a Bogged Beast Out of the River. 

A Native Camp. 




nS :: 

• ■ •»» iiigjK '« 



Light ^s^^^^ 

that Is ^^#% 
Nearest ^£^^=^~- 
Daylight, and 
almost as Cheap. 

98^ per cent. AIR. 
\\ per cent. PETROL. 

Thousands in Use in England, 
Ireland, America, and on the Continent. 



Much Cheaper 
iirii^r.-^-.^ than Electricity. 

Two to three times 
Cheaper than Coal Gas. 

Five or six times Cheaper 
than Acetylene Gas 

than Oil Lamps. 

The HIant can be 
easily installed, and 
the mechanism tho- 
roughly understood 
in a very short space 
of time. 

Why not write for 
full particulars, and 
learn Sinipitrnl uses 
for Lirthtint;. Heat- 
ing, and Cookinn. 


No Danger t< 
Animal or Plant 

No Odour. 

No Risk. 

No HissiiiK at the Burners. 

No Increase in Fire 

SiMPiTROL- Lighting 




A Native hisherman and HisVViit-. 

Our Camp in a Bullock Driver's Hut at the Ovens River. 

Some Publications 
by the same Author 

River Rovers 

The Book of E. J. Brady's record Motor 
Boat Journey down the Murray River from 
Albury to Lake Alexandrina; profusely 

Cloth, with Map, 3 6. 

The King's Caravan 

The Fascinating Story of an adventurous 
Waggon Trip across New South Wales and 
Queensland, from Sydney to Townsville. 

Picturesque Port Phillip 

A Motor Car jaunt around Port Phillip. 
In attractive Souvenir b^^k lopm, copiously 
illustrated by the camera. 

Coloured Cover, 1/-. 


Some Publications 
by the same Author 

Bells and Hobbles 

A collection of ringing poems and ballads, 
full of the color and character of the Bush. 
Pleasant pictures of Australia— North and 
South — painted by a master hand. 
Verse. Cloth covers, 3/6. 

The Ways of Many Waters 

Verse. The Best Book of the Sea and 
Sailor Life yet published. Illustrated by 
Alex. Sass. 
Cloth, 3/6. 

Bushland Ballads 

Verse. Suede Velvet Binding. Midget form. 

Tom Pagdin, Pirate 

A Sensational Tale of boyish adventure 
in tropical Australia, with illustrations by 
Lionel Lindsay. Paper Covers, 1/-. 



Los Angeles 

This book is DDE on the last date stamped below. 


Form L9-Series 4939 

L 005 782 302 3 


AA 000 978 633 6 




^ 1 i r^ ^ 


University Research Library